By Theckla Gunga – EMTV News, Port Moresby
Customary landowners of two Motu Koitabuan villages are surprised they have been served a notice to evict their traditional land. An eviction notice served this morning gave the landowners 14 days to remove their houses and vacate the land, but the landowners had refused to sign the documents saying they are settling on customary land, and the National Lands Department has not consulted them about the eviction.
The land in dispute is located behind Gerehu Stage 7 in the Moresby North-West electorate. There are over 500 villagers originally from Baruni who have come to settle there since the 1970’s to look after their customary land where they use for gardening, hunting and fishing.
According to earlier land surveys, the two pieces of land in dispute are portions 2196 and portion 3593, this pieces of land belong to Borehoho and Veasidaha villagers. In a survey conducted in 2002, the area in dispute was not included as part of state land. However, in a 2014 land survey, the villagers said their customary land was included as part of state land and this has confused the landowners because they claim there was no dialogue regarding their land with any Government authorities.
The landowners say during the colonial era these portions of land were said to be bought off by William McGregor, a former colonial administrator in 1821. They said 127 years have passed since the land was sold and according to the National Lands Act, the 100 years land leased to the state has already lapsed.
A petition has been drafted and will be presented to concerned authorities on the notice of eviction. Meanwhile, the Lands Department says the piece of land in dispute is actually state land.