19 Apr 2004

Vanuatu chiefs query land court role

3:16 pm on 19 April 2004

A non-government organisation in Vanuatu, the Working Group for Justice, says village chiefs in Santo have now joined them to petition the government to get rid of the Land Tribunal.

This follows a campaign for rural communities about the role of the Land Tribunal.

The group says landowners may be stripped away their traditional land rights in favour of individual ones.

A reporter for the Daily Post newspaper, Winston Tarere, says before the campaign, rural communities had thought the Land Tribunal was good for solving land disputes, and give power to chiefs over customary cases.

However, Mr Tarere says resisting the Land Tribunal's moves toward a Western style way of making land a commodity that can be brought and sold, has carried weight in rural areas.

"If you institutionalise it and make it a legal instrument like the land tribunal, if there's a decision then the other person loses out forever and then you have people who are displaced in society and traditional rural areas because now its a legal instrument that says you can't go there, boundary dividing. And then they see it as you'll have people that are landless."

Winston Tarere says the Working Group for Justice will take their awareness campaign to Louganville next.