Declared Custom Owner plans to apply for eviction order against land housing government school and clinic


DECLARED CUSTOM OWNER of a land boundary housing a government school and clinic in the Island of Paama is planning to apply for an eviction order.

The custom owner who is planning to apply for an eviction order in court against people who are settled in the land boundary including a government school and clinic is a client of ALAC Vanuatu since 2012.

The client sought ALAC for assistance in 2012 to obtain its land rent payment from the government.

Lehili Land housed Lehili Primary School and Lehili clinic before the independence in Paama Island.

In 1997, a lease agreement was signed and approved by Lands Director General (DG) and Minister and some people claiming to be the rightful custom owner.

The Lease Agreement notifies that the Lessors are duly authorized representative of the custom owner of the said land.

The Agreement also contains provisions about back rental payment between 1980 and 1997 and clearly specifies the amount of VT3, 200 per annum from 1980 to 1990 and VT6, 000 per annum from 1990 to 1997.

However the land lease payments have since been ceased following dispute as to the rightful custom owner of the Lehili Land.

It was alleged that the Lessors who have signed the Agreement to Lease of Lehili Land are not the rightful Custom Owner and they had been improperly receiving these Lease Rent Payment.

The matter was lodged with the Court to determine the rightful owner who would be entitled to receive the land lease payment.

On 22 October, 2007, the Malekula Island Court handed down its judgment in favour of an ALAC client. However, although the rightful custom owner was determined, the Government is still reluctant to make the payment due to some underlying issues. First is the exact boundary of the Lehili land, and second is the location of the rental building.

On 11 October, 2012, The Malekula Island Court handed down its decision clarifying the boundary of the Lehili land concerned in the judgment of 22 October, 2007. The claimant is the declared custom owner of the land housing both the Clinic and the Lehili Primary School. In its judgment the Court declared that “All land lease rental payments should only be paid to the declared custom owner and her family. Any current rental proceeds of land lease payments made to parties other than the declared custom owners should forthwith cease…”

Since the 11 October, 2012 judgment was made, the Government is yet to make payments of the Lease Rent to the Declared Custom Owner

ALAC forwarded numerous letters were forwarded to the Lands Department (which has the responsibility for registering leases) and the State Law Office, (which eventually acknowledged that it was effectively the legal representative of the prospective lease departments and whose task it was to work with custom owners and the Department of Health and Education who have facilities on the custom land.

Notwithstanding the volume of correspondence and meetings with all four departments and passage of almost 3 years since Island Court judgment was delivered, ALAC client is yet to receive her payment of land annual rent.

TIV published an article on the Vanuatu Daily Post last year on the same matter and was informed by ALAC client that nothing has yet been done regarding the payments since then.

Thus ALAC client is now planning to apply for an eviction order in court.

TIV encourages the government to settle the payments it owes to its clients because if an eviction order is lodged and granted by the court it will greatly affect the community of Paama Island.

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