Protecting Indigenous Lands in Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, said his government wants to amend the Constitution to restrict the sale of land to foreigners.

Sogavare made the comments during the conclusion of parliament and said the proposal would be an effort to protect the country’s resources.

Speaking in parliament to conclude Sine Die, Sogavare said the amendment to the country’s constitution is to protect the ownership of the country’s resources.

“These will include a temporary restriction on the sale of land to foreigners by individuals, protection of indigenous peoples ownership over their traditional lands, relook at the customary land tenure system, introduction of the customary lands trust board, enacting provisions for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) by ratifying and implementing the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People [UNDRIP (2007)]”, Sogavare says.

He said any amendment would include a temporary restriction on the sale of land to foreigners, the protection of indigenous people’s ownership of traditional land, a relook at the customary land tenure system and the introduction of the customary lands trust board.

Permanent Secretary of Lands, Stanley Wale, recently said indigenous Solomon Islanders were selling land to foreigners. Wale said currently there was no more land left in Honiara to be sold, saying most of it was now in foreign hands. “Most of the land now in foreigners’ hands are being sold to them by indigenous Solomon Islanders. It is us that gave our land away”, Wale said.

Prime Minister Sogavare said while his government was aware of the need to bring in investors, it also remained committed to protect its citizens, especially indigenous communities and resource owners. “On those grounds, DCGA is proposing an amendment to our constitution to protect the ownership of our resources”, Sogavare said.

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Traditional village house, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, photo from ICAS

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