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Tina-hydro faces setback

DISAGREEMENTS over compulsory land acquisition now appear headed for a clash between the National Government and landowning groups opposed to the idea.

Paramount Chief Walton Naeson revealed this to Island Sun yesterday, saying it is pointless for donors and the government talking about the project going ahead when they are not willing to address the fundamental issue of landownership.

“The fact of the matter is this. Landowning groups never objected to the project. In fact they all accept it and this is why they contend there is no need for compulsory acquisition.

“However, these landowning groups insist and I support them that the issue of landownership must be determined as the number one priority before we move ahead,” Mr Naeson said.

A former Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification, Mr Naeson said the issue of ownership is critical.

To date only two of the four landowning groups have signed up and had received payments.

“But there are four landowning groups. Of particular concern to us is the issue of security, particularly now that RAMSI has left the country.

“I simply do not want to see a project with good intention such as the Tina River Hydro Scheme be allowed to turn into a nightmare in terms of security for my people. This is why we insist the issue of landownership must be determined first and foremost before the project goes ahead,” he said.

Mr Naeson said he is surprised that donors continue to push for land acquisition.

“I don’t know what they are reading into the situation, but they are contributing to the growing unease over land acquisition. They must think twice about forcing landowners against their will because the end result might not be as pleasant as some people think,” Mr Naeson said.

Mr Naeson appealed to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to put the brake on the compulsory land acquisition drive and instead focus on the issue of determining ownership of the land where the project is located.

“Unless the government does that, we could be in for a lot of strife,” he said.

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