PRESS RELEASE (17/4/13)
Actions being undertaken by the new Minister of Lands
Since becoming Minister of Lands on the 23rd March 2013, Minister Regenvanu has undertaken the following actions in relation to the issue of the granting of State land leases to Lands staff and other persons by the former Minister of Lands Steven Kalsakau:
1. Undertaken an investigation to establish the full list of state land titles that were sold off under Minister Kalsakau and all information pertaining to these titles – name of lessee, value paid for the title, etc. This list is now almost complete.
2. Provided a warning to all Department staff to fully cooperate with the investigations of the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman into the acquiring of State land by Ministry and Department staff.
3. Received legal advice from the State Law Office for the process to be followed in obtaining surrender of the leases granted by the former Minister to staff and other beneficiaries.
4. Held a meeting with all Department of Lands staff at which they have been formally asked to surrender the leases they have obtained.
5. Submitted a Policy Paper to the Council of Ministers to obtain the Council’s formal endorsement for the policy to attempt to get back all the state land titles sold off under Minister Steven Kalsakau, and for the use of the Acquisition of Land budget head to refund monies paid by lessees.
Minister Regenvanu has also declared his intention to address as a priority the reform of land legislation in Vanuatu to address the many issues of public concern that continue to arise in the country as a result of our unsatisfactory current laws. Accordingly, the Minister has also created a High Level Working Group to provide advice on the future directions of land reform in Vanuatu. This High Level Working Group has now met twice already and, in accordance with the Government’s “100 Day List”, a policy paper outlining legislative priorities for land reform will be published by the Ministry (in collaboration with Ministry of Justice and Social Welfare) before mid-June for wider public consultation. This policy paper will be presented to the first meeting of the new Council of the Malvatumauri in May for it’s endorsement prior to publication.
The new Minister has also reconstituted the membership of the Land Management and Planning Committee (LMPC), the main body that advises the Minister on the approval of land dealings, including the issuing of new leases. In an instruction issued to the Director of the Department of Lands on the 10th of April, the Minister created a new position of “independent Chair” and appointed four new members to the Committee: the Valuer-General or his representative (to advise on the appropriate valuation of areas of land that are leased), the Director of Vanuatu Cultural Centre or his representative (to advise on site interests or any broader cultural heritage matters in accordance with the requirements of the Preservation of Sites and Artefacts Act), the National Coordinator of Land Disputes (to advise on leased areas where custom landowners are going through a customary land tribunal process) and the President of the Malvatumari or his representative (in recognition of the ongoing role that the Malvatumauri should play in accordance with Article 76 of the Constitution).
Accordingly, the new membership of the LMPC is:
1.Independent Chair of the LMPC, appointed by the Minister
2.The first Political Advisor, Minister of Lands
3.Director of Lands, Survey and Registry
4.The Principal Registry Officer
5.The Surveyor General
6.The Shefa Provincial Planner
7.A representative of the Department of Internal Affairs
8.A representative of the Port Vila Municipality
9.Senior Lands Officer (Acting as LMPC Secretariat Officer)
10.A representative of the Environment Department
11.The Valuer-General or his representative
12.The Director of Vanuatu Cultural Centre or his representative
13.National Coordinator of Land Disputes
14.The President of the Malvatumari or his representative.