Ifira Land Management, a subsidiary of the Ifira Trustees Limited (ITL), ordered the closure of a shop operated by a person of Asian origin at Malapoa Estate outside of Port Vila in December after two years operation.
Reason given was that the lease for the land on which the business was located was a residential lease.
Senior Lands Office of the Ifira Land Management (ILM), Alick Kalmelu, explains that the lease for the land was not a commercial one, meaning the lessee was in breach by having the shop on the property.
He says all the leases in Malapoa Estate are residential leases, adding: “There are no commercial leases, meaning any shops, kava nakamals, garages or other business operations going on at Malapoa Estate are not allowed and we have to look into these commercial operations.”
“Those people operating kava nakamals and other commercial activities must cease those businesses,” he advises, warning that the ILM will seek legal avenues to stop them if they do not comply.
ILM manages land areas within Malapoa Estate — the former Peacock and De Gaillande subdivisions.
At the moment ILM are looking at how ITL came to occupy these plots of land before independence and to regularize all the dealings done before independence and immediately after independence in order to determine the exact legal status of the lands.
Alick Kalmelu tells Kizzy Kalsakau of 96 Buzz FM’s Vanuatu Nightly News that there are some people living illegally in these lands and ILM is looking into the status of the lands and how these people have come to occupy these lands whether legally or illegally before taking any action.
“And we have to identify who are the squatters and who are legally occupying the lands.
“There are more than 20 so far identified including some from Ifira Island itself, many of these people just moved in and settled without entering into any lease agreements with Ifira Land Management.
“As far as the law is concerned, there are a number of documents showing breaches in lease agreements and lease contracts as far as the Lands Leases Act is concerned.
“Now, we have to use the laws of the country and the custom laws and combine the two to execute the decisions of the Land Management Board of Ifira to remove these squatters,” he added.
Kalmelu says that included in the group they are looking at are three to four expatriates living at Malapoa Estates illegally.
“That is to say that some time in the recent past, there has been some transactions in the banks on the lessees without the consent of the Ifira Chief, who is the chairman of Ifira Trustees Limited.”
He says they have given notices to the banks – National Bank of Vanuatu and Bred Bank especially, because “there have been some transactions between the banks and the new occupants of the lands and properties.”
He adds that there are also cases where some people are living on one piece of land but their mortgages are on another piece of land. And there are others still where people are occupying these plots of land without paying any money for them, and others also where people have paid undervalue costs for the lands.
“People from Ifira pay half of the value of the land, but the problem is that some other people are also paying the 50% value of the plots and we have to regularize these.
Some people live in Port Vila but do gardening at Malapoa Estate land and Kalmelu says that starting next week they will be issuing notices to these people to cease their activities and vacate the lands.
He advises that ILM Board will terminate the leases of those people who are occupying lands without completing their leases and then apply to the Office of the Valuer General as the law requires to carry out a proper valuation of the properties.
For those who refuse to vacate the lands, ILM Senior Lands Officer says ILM will need court orders to have them evicted using the Vanuatu Police Force and the Ifira Chief’s police.
“Ifira Land Management is ensuring that everything it is doing is done within the confines of the law.
“No favoritism or family reasons or whatever.
“Any other questions needing reconciliation will have to be referred to the Land Management Board and Chief of Ifira and the Chief’s Council of Ifira because we want transparency, accountability and all that,” Kalmelu concludes.