Meetings with leaders held in Kia this week confirm strong interest in proceeding with customary land recording of Barora Fa’a land in Isabel Province. There are currently no official government records regarding land ownership in Barora Fa’a, which has resulted in some disagreements and uncertainty.
As a way to resolve this uncertainty, leaders from the community have offered to undertake a formal customary land recording exercise under the guidance of the National Recorder and the Ministry of Lands, Housing & Survey. Using traditional knowledge to support the creation of official records will ensure that the community has ownership over the process, while still providing data essential for the official records. The Barora Fa’a Interim Committee and the Zabana House of Chiefs met on 19 and 20 February and confirmed their interest and support for this project.
The meetings were convened by the Paramount Chief of Isabel, Rt. Rev. Thaba James Mason OBE, and also attended by a representative of the Ministry, Director of Land Reform Hellen Ohukeni, a representative of the Prime Minister’s office, National Consultant for Lands and Commerce Leonard Rotu, and the Pacific Community (SPC) Chief Technical Adviser at the Ministry, Alan McNeil.
At the first day’s meeting, the three Honiara-based representatives explained to landowners the process of land recording according to the Customary Land Records Act, and answered their questions. The landowners were informed that SPC, with Australian Government financial assistance, is willing to provide a recording officer to officially record the genealogies, representatives and boundaries of the Barora Fa’a land if the landowners wish to take this step.
It was noted at the meeting that much time had already been spent to record genealogies and land ownership, including details that were agreed to at a convention held in 2016 and a land demarcation consultation meeting held in 2017. The general consensus at the meeting was that it is a very appropriate time for the national government with donor assistance to step in and assist with the formalisation of land recording, as so much groundwork has already been completed and agreed.
The Prime Minister’s Office representative Leonard Rotu was very encouraged at the feedback and outcome of the meeting this week in Kia. “The Solomon Islands Government is very supportive of customary land recording and it is a policy priority of the SIDCC Government”, he said after the meeting. “Landowners have to initiate the consultations and recording proposals, before we can step in to assist, and we don’t wish to override any agreements that have already been made between landowners” he added. In conclusion he said: “we will inform the Prime Minister’s Office about the great progress being made in Isabel Province towards formal recognition of customary land ownership, and in the meantime we encourage landowners to continue to cooperate when the formal recording commences in order to ensure a smooth progression to official recording and potential registration of the Barora Fa’a land”.
Alan McNeil SPC Chief Technical Adviser at Ministry of Lands, Housing & Survey, [email protected] or +677 7768145