The Government did not steal Lenur Island, according to Jackly Reuben Titek.

The Daily Post front page article on Saturday’s issue No. 5010 was factually incorrect in many ways according to information supplied by Elder Jacklyn Reuben Titek, former Member of Parliament for Malekula and his sons.

Jacklyn Reuben Titek was not an MP in 2007 at the time of the drawing up and signing off of the first lease of Lenur Island because he ended his term as MP for Malekula in 2002 after Parliament was dissolved by Acting President Roger Abiut. Former MP and former government minister Maxime Carlot Korman was Minister of Lands and not Acting Minister of Lands according to our article, when he signed off the first lease on behalf of government as Lessor to the sons of Titek as Lessee.

“Your article accused me of having something to do with the lease of island when I was no longer a government minister since I finished in 2002 as Member of Parliament,” Titek explained.

“I never participated in any negotiation for leasing of Lenur Island.

"It was all done after I had finished as MP. I also don’t know the investors involved. My boys took up the business of leasing the island and dealt with it in according to the land laws of Vanuatu at that time.

"And a court case over ownership of the island is still continuing,” he added.

He explained that his family, the Family Titek is now the recognized land owners of Lenur Island after a declaration of ownership of the island from the joint village lands tribunal of South Malekula area in 2010, a recognized court by the Lands Tribunals Office in Port Vila that gave them the right as lessor.

“It was not true that only my family members were at the court hearing, the Vice President of Malmetenvanu council of chiefs of Malekula was also present and heard claims from other claimants for the island.

“There was no favoritism, and anyone has the right to appeal against the decision, but by the time the date for appeal lapsed no appeal was recorded,” a reference to the claims by Alfred Rolland Orah and his family for the island.

“There was no excuse that any interested parties did not know about the court because a notice for its convening was sent out 30 days earlier according to the law at that time, the Land Tribunals Act, for parties to prepare for the court. There was no favoritism,” he repeated

“We did not take any short cut in the process, all leases followed the law.

"The decision of the South Malekula Land Tribunal came to the Lands Tribunal Office in Port Vila, after that it went to the State Law Office.

"The SLO then confirmed and instructed that the decision was done by an instituted court and instructed the Lands Records Office to have names rectified, and named the Titek family as Lessor on the lease of Lenur Island.”

Elder Titek and his son explained that it was not true that there was no dispute over the island when the first lease was drawn up in 2007. He said the lease was listed as disputed in its initial form, and government was acting on behalf of disputing parties as lessor.

He added that there were two disputing parties – Family Titek and Family Hairang, and both agreed for government to act on their behalf as lessor, according to law, and sign off the lease for the island in 2007 to the Titek sons. He said the disputing parties had been registered in the government’s records as existing since the 1960s.

The Vt1.5 million lease value for the first lease was done by the Valuation Unit of Lands Department according to what the law provides for it to do the valuation and calculate a premium to say that anyone who want to lease the island has to pay Vt1.5 million to the custom owner trust account known as the Court Account held by the Supreme Court on behalf of landowners.

The Titek sons paid the Vt1.5 million to the custom owners account and after the 2010 joint tribunal made its declaration that the Titek Family was lessor of the island they got their money back after the SLO prepared a deed of release of the money back to them.

“When we went to acquire the lease from the government there were two disputing parties registered in the government records since the 1960s,” the two Titek sons explained, “There was no fraud involved.”

After the first lease as lessee by the rule of law the Titek sons can transfer the lease or sell the lease, but they worked with First National Real Estate with their lawyers and drew up a commercial lease to encourage investment for development purposes for the island.

“First National and their lawyers found the investor Andrew Butlin, a respectful investor. We agreed with them and decided to transfer the lease to him and government as lessor gave its consent to the decision.

“Our main aim was to be developed the island as a tourist destination to attract revenue for young people who come to work.”

“Now Butlin, who has a right according to law is a lessee to transfer the lease for any amount if he wishes is doing so as it is his right due to ill health,” the Titek sons said.

Daily Post apologizes to the Titek family.

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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