Nyus i kam long MP mo Pati
Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu

2 Press Rilis blong Ministri blong Lands

Olgeta –

Luk daon 2 press rilis blong Ministri blong Lands.
(Sori, i stap long English nomo).
Ta, Ralph
Minister asks staff to surrender leases over state land
At a meeting convened on Monday 15th April at the Chief’s Nakamal in Port Vila, the Minister for Lands, the Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, officially requested all staff of the Department of Lands who had obtained leases over state land from the former Minister of Lands Steven Kalsakau to surrender these leases.
All Lands staff were directed to attend the meeting, and at the meeting they received individually-addressed letters requesting them to surrender the specific titles they had obtained.
The letter said (in part):
I write to you in my capacity as the Minister of Lands requesting that you surrender the lease or leases issued to you over state land by the former Minister of Lands Steven Kalsakau.
As you are aware there is currently a court case and two internal investigations being undertaken to identify the current and previous staff of the Department of Lands and Ministry of Lands who have obtained leases in the last 12 months under a program of preferential access to state land established by the former Minister of Lands.  The powers of these Public Service Commission and Ombudsman investigations are broad and far reaching.  While I await the findings of the inquiries it is highly likely that staff who have been involved in obtaining leases through this process may be subject to disciplinary proceedings and/or prosecution under the Penal Code [CAP 135] and under the provisions of the Leadership Code [CAP 240].
Accordingly I wish to provide all staff with an opportunity to surrender the leases that they have obtained over state land through these flawed processes.  The option to surrender a lease is contained in section 49 of the Land Leases Act.  Following the surrender of the lease the Director shall cancel the registration of the lease (section 49(c)).
The meeting was chaired by the new Acting DG of the Ministry, Mr Jean-Marc Pierre, and, in addition to the Minister and his cabinet, was observed by the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and members of the team appointed by the PSC to investigate the issuing of the state land leases to staff, staff of the Office of the Ombudsman (which is also investigating this matter) and a representative of the Office of the Attorney General.
The Minister spoke to the staff and read out the letter issued to them, and the Chairman of the PSC also addressed the meeting.  Both the Minister and the Chairman stressed that they recognised that many staff considered themselves “victims” of the situation.  The Minister advised that all staff voluntarily surrendering their leases would be fully refunded the money they paid for the leases, and that they would not be charged any administrative fees.  Both the PSC Chairman and the Acting DG requested the staff to consider carefully the Minister’s request and use the opportunity provided as a way to “turn over a new leaf”.
In the coming days, all staff who obtained state land leases but were not at the meeting will receive their letters from the Minister, and the Acting DG will travel to Luganville to give the letters to Lands staff there.
The Minister is also requesting all local authorities not to issue any development permissions or building permits on the state land titles issued to staff and to members of the public pending the outcome of the PSC and Ombudsman investigations.
In the coming days the Minister will also begin the process of requesting members of the public who obtained leases to state land from the former Minister of Lands Steven Kalsakau in the same fashion to also surrender these leases.
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.

Graon mo Jastis Pati (GJP) · P.O. Box 1189 · Port Vila 00

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