The four core landowning tribes of the proposed Tina River Hydro Project have all signed the Process Agreement Wednesday last week to consent to government acquire their land for the Tina Hydro development. Their consent marked the end of several months of negotiations between the core land tribes and the government through the Tina River Hydro Development Project Office.
Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo thanked the tribes for their cooperation and understanding in supporting the government in this milestone development. “We see the success in building the hydro pointing to the beginning of a new era in sustainable development in the country,” said Lilo. Lilo also praised the landowners for their full cooperation and understanding in moving the project to another phase.
He said the land will be acquired but the title will be held by a 50-50 per cent joint venture between the core tribes and government. “This is unlike past acquisitions where the government had taken land away from landowners,” he said.
In response Sir Paul Tovua who spoke on behalf of the core tribes praised the government for its patience and tolerance in supporting landowners with this unprecedented move. Sir Paul said he and fellow landowners were honoured by the presence of the Prime Minister in this important achievement. He also added that the Prime Minister has always been asking where people can help to make the country strong economically, politically and socially. “Hopefully, our signing this Process Agreement which paves the way for the hydro to be built will initiate a lot of development for the country because this is a national project,” said Sir Paul Tovua. Sir Paul however also called on the government to keep its promises to landowners.
He also cautioned against certain Malango leaders using the Tina Hydro Project for political reasons. “Leaders should not go against something for the people,” he said.
Three of the signatories in the ceremony were women from Roha and Buhu Garo tribes. In their brief address to the gathering, they thanked the government for the unique opportunity to participate in the signing. “This is the first time for us women to be involved in these important undertakings. We have had previous developments but women were not involved in those.”
The four tribes, Roha, Buhu Garo, Kochiabolo and Vuralingi have been identified through a traditional land identification process as the primary owners of the 448 hectares earmarked for the core area of the hydro.
The next step after this consent is for the government to proceed with the statutory process provided for in the Land agreement.