9 Dec 2008

Solomons tribal disputes to go to new panels

5:09 pm on 9 December 2008

The selection of a panel in Solomon Islands to sort out tribal land disputes in a customary way is seen as a key aspect of a proposed bill.

The Solomon Islands Minister for Justice and Legal Affairs announced recently a draft Bill called the Tribal Lands Dispute Resolution Panels Bill 2008.

Toswell Kaua says the panel, made up of local chiefs and leaders, could decide in tribal land disputes, instead of the cases going through the courts.

Those voted onto the panel must be publicly elected and have a good knowledge of the customary rules on the land in question.

Our correspondent Dorothy Wickham says many disputes relate to development, so the panel will have to be seen as fair and impartial, and fully understand how customary law applies, which can be complex.

"We have a court system that deals with tribal land ownership however it hasn't always satisfied landowners when they take it to dispute and they take it to the local courts, and then they take it to the high court and then they go to the appeal court and they still have disputes over it. So I think this panel will have to start looking at also trying to find out what is the right and correct traditional ownership system for each indigenous grouping."

Dorothy Wickham