Efate youths want Article 79 of Constitution on land transactions removed

Vaturisu SG Chief Jimmy Meameadola (r) receives the petition from President of Efate and Offshore Tomorrow Youth Alliance, Marik Kalman, and Vice President Jackson Kalomtak (l)

By Jonas Cullwick

A newly formed youth group, the Efate and Offshore Tomorrow Youth Alliance presented a petition to Vaturisu, the council of chiefs of Efate and offshore islands, meeting in its 11th Conference this week at Mele village, Wednesday.

The 14-point petition calls for a stop to allowing foreigners’ involvement on determining how the chiefs of Vaturisu should manage land matters, to remove the Article on land transactions in the Constitution of Vanuatu, and to put an end to deep sea mining.

It was signed by over 350 youths of the region.

The idea of the petition came out of a meeting of the youths at Piliura village on Pele Island, off north Efate, organized by the Land Desk of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, during which the participants became concerned about the scale of “land grabbing” taking place on Efate and the offshore islands.

And the youths have taken the step to draw the attention of the chiefs to the issues of land that will affect them and the future generations and to appeal to them to act.

The 14-point petition: 1. Stop allowing foreigners to confuse the chiefs and people of Efate, Vanuatu, on how to manage land (under the Customary Land Management Act); 2. Remove the word compensation from the Land Lease Act; 3. Any transfer of land “must” have the consent or the knowledge of the exact custom owner; 4. Remove Chapter 12, Article 79 from the Constitution of Vanuatu; 5. The Minister of Lands must work in line with what the custom chiefs want; 6. Chiefs to strongly work with government to review all land laws and substitute the word “should” in the laws to “must”; 7. All subsidiary lands laws that do not conform to the custom laws of the chiefs, government review and make them conform to custom ways; 8. Respect the terms of leases and there must be no transfer of leases and no change of lease type before term of leases expire; 9. Vaturisu must increase its help and work with villages that are experiencing issues with land; 10. Stop deep sea mining; 11. Nguna and Pele are requesting a ministerial order or ban on any lease of land in future; 12. Vaturisu must participate in any workshop for the youths concerning land and there be participation of the youth in the meetings and conferences of Vaturisu; 13. Vaturisu must review the Customary Land Management Act; 14. Put a limit on imported food into Efate.

Article 79 of Chapter 12 of the Constitution of Vanuatu the youths of Efate and Offshore Tomorrow Youth Alliance want removed completely is titled Land transactions and its subarticles: (1) Notwithstanding Articles 73, 74 and 75 land transactions between an indigenous citizen and either a non-indigenous citizen or a non-citizen shall only be permitted with the consent of the Government; and (2) The consent required under subarticle (1) shall be given unless the transaction is prejudicial to the interests of – (a) the custom owner or owners of the land; (b) the indigenous citizen where he is not the custom owner; (c) the community in whose locality the land is situated; or (d) the Republic of Vanuatu.

Marik Kalman, President of Efate and Offshore Tomorrow Youth Alliance, and Jackson Kalomtak, Vice President of the alliance, accompanied by 43 members, presented the petition to the Efate and offshore islands Vaturisu conference.

It was received by the Secretary-General of Vaturisu, Chief Jimmy Meameadola, after which the petition was accepted by the conference led by the Chairman, Chief and the Vaturisu Executive with a promise to look at the petition at its next meetings.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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