Dr Siobhan McDonnell and her North Efate papa, Richard Matanik.

Dr Siobhan McDonnell and her North Efate papa, Richard Matanik.

A Kaljoral Senta Toktok on Tuesday night was enthralled by Dr Siobhan McDonnell's presentation "Exploring the politics of land, from the village to the state".

Siobhan is indeed an expert on the subject and her research, beginning with North Efate chiefly involvement with ministers and investors, is notably meticulously documented in her thesis.

Ten percent of all customary land in Vanuatu is now leased out.

North Efate is McDonnell's principle area of interest following the boost given to land sales in the area after the Survivor television series. There was a land rush.

A total of 56% of Efate's coastal land became leased. North Efate's World Heritage standing was nearly lost after Survivor and the sealing of the round-island road.

Suddenly North Efate was prime real estate and foreign investors were anxious to possess, often with citizenship deals.

Ministers of Land started leasing customary and state land for their own self-interest or that of their investor partners.

Public interest and environmental and planning regulations were subverted.

Siobhan McDonnell is particularly interested on the way in which the leasing of customary and state land advanced a shadow state of politicians who operate in partnership with investors and the off-shore financial sector.

Whilst the 2014 land reform package was intended to curb the influence of investors this shadow state has continued to operate in various ways, most notably right up to the bribery case putting many MPs and cabinet members in gaol.

"Exploring the politics of land from the village to the state" was a milestone address for all attending, and for the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta in an additional way.

The requirement for researchers to deposit their research with the VKS is again being honoured after quite a long period of remission. Siobhan presented her thesis to VKS Director Asal Lazaire who spoke highly of the light McDonnell casts on land business.

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