Commissioner of Lands reveals: HCC owned the land NOT MAL

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By ROBERT LUKE IROGA, SBMOnline Editor

The Commissioner of Lands, Alan McNeil, has exclusively revealed today that he has given consent to the Honiara City Council to sell the plot of land at Ranadi which was also claimed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock because it rightly belonged to the Council.

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Speaking exclusively to SBMOnline today, McNeil said there is nothing on the record to show that MAL owned the land but it was a fixed term estate that was owned by the HCC.

SBMOnline understands that the land was sold by HCC to Excellent Resources Management Ltd for around $800,000.

The Commissioner said he had acted upon receiving valid required documents from the HCC which clearly stated that they were the rightful owners of the fixed term estate over Parcel 191-010-033 and that Council meeting Minutes were provided showing it was a valid Council decision to sell the land.

McNeil told SBM that before any consent for transfer is given: “I make very simple checks, I would check they have paid the consent fee, given us a certified copy of fixed term estate to prove they are the owner and also I check my ‘black list’ of parcels that are under forfeiture or resumption or High Court challenge.”

He said in this case: “The City Council provided a certified copy of the fixed term estate showing they owned the land, tick, they paid the consent fee, tick and I am not in the middle of forfeiting it or resuming it and there is no High Court case so I gave the consent,” he said.

When asked if MAL owned the land, he replied: “They did not own it.”

He adds there was no evidence to show that there was a lease agreement between MAL and the HCC.

He said as far as he was concerned it was a free fixed term estate that HCC wanted to sell.

He said he only knew about the Bio Security claims of ownership after MAL raised concerns but reiterated that the land belonged to HCC.

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SBMOnline can confidently say that eight Councilors including the mayor met on 29 October last year to sanction the sale of the land to the new owner.

The story made headlines this week after the MAL Permanent Secretary Ethel Tebengi Francis issued a statement condemning HCC for selling the plot to an Asian businessman.

She claimed that MAL owned the land and the site was used as an incinerator to dispose of aviation waste.

MAL in the statement in its strongest term condemned the action taken by the HCC to sell off what it claimed as its piece of land that housed the Biosecurity incinerator at Ranadi, East of Honiara.

This was after MAL found out that the land was sold out by HCC to an Asian without the ministry’s knowledge.

“The land is used for destruction of all garbage remove from international vessels and aircraft coming into Solomon Islands.

“It’s a requirement that Garbage of this sort must be offloaded and incinerated as biosecurity risk is very high. Normal garbage for incinerator in this premises are plants and plant products and animal and their products,” Director of Biosecurity of MAL, Francis Tsatsia said.

Frances said that she is very disappointed about the action taken by HCC to sell off the land without consulting her ministry (MAL). “At least the courtesy to inform us so we can negotiate with them (HCC). This is a threat to national security of this country during these COVID-19 pandemic as wastes from flights into the country poses a huge threat.”

When conducted to make comments, the HCC has not responded to our queries.

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