Dawn operation at Saratamata angers landowners

The custom landowners of Saratamata where the Penama Headquarters was formerly situated are meeting on Thursday, to consider what action to take after claiming that seven water taxis from Pentecost recently arrived at dawn and transported all furniture and office equipment to Loltong, despite a namele leaf at the entrance to the premises.

It is alleged that one of the landowners was offered cash to remove the namele to allow the crew of the seven boats to enter the premises.

Asked if the landowner received part of the payment, he shook his head saying, “As far as the rest of the landowners are concerned, it was not a genuine exercise to arrive at dawn and remove all the furniture without the knowledge of the staff, let alone paying one landowner.

“We from Ambae do not organise such operations on another island without the presence of the local landowners as well as their chiefs.

“Before the land was handed to the Government to set up the former local government council on it, a relevant custom ceremony was performed in the day and not at dawn to conform to transparency principles.”

The landowner who asked not to be named says chiefs and landowners of Saratamata are meeting over the “operation at dawn”.

The landowner says over the years, scores of people from Pentecost have been born and integrated into local communities surrounding Saratamata.

For this reason, he criticises the latest approach to remove the properties, saying the money should have been paid in the presence of all four landowners and not just to one for the benefit of every landowner.

He suspects the money have been paid to the landowner primarily to enable them to remove all the office equipment before the local population was fully awake. “This is where questions have to be asked as to why so if it was done in good faith then let it be witnessed by the people”, he says.

“We need an urgent clarification from the Provincial Government Authorities to explain the early morning operation”.

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