29 Aug 2013

Vanuatu Cultural Centre warns ni-Vanuatu to protect land

4:58 pm on 29 August 2013

The Vanuatu Cultural Centre is campaigning against the leasing of niVanuatu land for fear the owners may not get it back.

The Director of the Cultural Centre says many ni-Vanuatu people who have leased their land to businessmen have not received sufficient compensation.

Marcellin Abong told Beverley Tse why the landowners should not lease their land.

MARCELLIN ABONG: In Vanuatu, we have many, many tiny islands. And when you start to sell your land that means you are selling your birthright. But the problem is niVanuatuans can't survive, they can't survive without their lands and without their families. That's very important for people to think about.

BEVERLEY TSE: Under the law, can ni-Vanuatu people actually sell their land to anyone interested?

MA: Yeah. I think they don't use the term of 'land', but there is a law that says that you can lease your land. So it's very tricky. So you lease your land for 75 years, for example, and then if the developer develops your land, after 75 years, 75 years is two or three generations. Then after that you have to get your land back. So you have to compensate the developer. And it's very, very hard for the ni-Vanuatuans who own the lands to compensate these developers. So that means that when the lease of 75 years is at (Indistinct). Once you put your land on lease, automatically your land is held from your right. And that's very important. So we are combatting against this. We run many, many awareness campaigns throughout the country and try to explain all the legislation relating to land dealing.

BT: So with your efforts, with your efforts to try and encourage niVanuatu people not to sell their land, is that message getting through? Do people understand why you want them to retain their land?

MA: At the moment, we have many, many communities to try to stop leasing the land, not selling the land. We believe that when you lease your land your land is gone. For example, a family from a village named Efate, they are the first family who decided to lease their land, but every end of year they just receive 2,000 vatu, it's like $20. And it's a pity because these lands are owned collectively. What is the fee of the lease, for example, or premium or whatever they can say, you have to distribute these funds to everybody. And then at the end of the day each family gets only a small amount of money.