This call out follows cancellation of all SABLs in the country which was made by the government earlier.
Following a meeting on Wednesday, the 5th of April, Minister Allen said the Lands Department is now tasked to write to all SABL holders to return the leases to the department.
“SABLs are now cancelled. They (Leaseholders) should now come forward to the Department and surrender their titles.”
Acting Lands Secretary Tiri Wanga said, “The developers, investors who are sitting out there, the onus is on you to come forward with your titles because those titles under SABL which you’ve got is already just a useless paper.”
The government’s plan is to convert all SABLs into voluntary customary registration.
Mr Tiri said what will happen is that they will convert the SABLs, “to something more workable and we will give it back to them.”
SABLs became a national issue when customary landowners found out that leases were issued without following proper processes and without their consent.
In most cases, SABL occupations meant police brutality and forced alienation from traditional gardening sites and water sources.
Paul Pavol, an award winning environmental activist, was in Port Moresby in February to voice these concerns. His tribal land in Pomio is also under SABL occupation.
While recounting their experiences, he said there was freedom to exercise their rights and there was always the police that were used to stop them.
“Mipla stap olsem mipla stap lo unseen karabus. So this is what SABL sa bringim kam lo yumi ol PNG. Na em i settim foundation where bihain future blo y umi bai nogat freedom lo em sapos yumi no sanap wantaim lo halivim yumi lo disla issue.”
(We lived like we were in an unseen prison. This is what SABL brings to us in PNG. It sets a foundation for the future where we will live without freedom if we do not help to address this issue.)
For these communities, the SABL experience means they have lost faith in any form of government land registration.
To that the acting secretary says, “Those landowners who do not want to participate in any development and who do not want to do anything with it…you take you land back and keep it. We do not want to do anything with it.”
And his message to the SABL holders is clear, “They must cease their operations and pack up and move out of that land.”