A British based human rights research centre, the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), has raised concerns over contradictory state-corporate response to the recent demolition exercise at Paga Hill.
The destruction left hundreds of people homeless and destroyed World War II relics and a Seventh Day Adventist Church.
It took place amidst multiple disputes about land at Paga Hill, an area earmarked for a ring road, in addition to a luxury real estate project spearheaded by the Paga Hill Development Company.
“This egregious demolition exercise appears to be something of an orphan,” said ISCI researcher, Dr Kristian Lasslett.
“Governor Parkop has eschewed responsibility for the destruction, while the Paga Hill ring road contractor, Curtain Brothers, also denies involvement.
“So who then is responsible for vandalising priceless historical artefacts and destroying family homes?” he said.
ISCI said it was even more confusing when attention is drawn to the legal status of the land on which the demolition took place.
“For years the community at Paga Hill has contested an eviction order obtained by the Paga Hill Development Company,” Dr Lasslett said.
“Those families living in lower Paga argue that their homes lie on reclaimed land outside the developer’s state lease. On 1 July this year, the Supreme Court made an order supporting the community’s argument.”
However, according to Dr Lasslett, “back in 2013 it appears that this reclaimed land was somehow surveyed and registered as Portion 3149 in Survey Plan Cat No.49/3107.
“Then in January this year the Land Board recommended that a Special Purpose Lease over the disputed land be awarded to Andayap No.5 Limited, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC). This arrangement was formalised in a gazettal notice dated 4 June 2014.”
ISCI questioned why the Supreme Court was not alerted to this arrangement given its direct relevance to the community’s appeal.
“Even when responding to the 1 July Supreme Court decision, PHDC failed to mention that it had acquired title over the reclaimed land’, Dr Lasslett observed.
“Instead, we were led to believe that only the NCDC and Curtain Brothers had a tangible interest. The community at Paga Hill is devastated.
“They can’t understand how land the subject of a Supreme Court hearing, could be leased out by the government to the respondent in the case, without the appellant being alerted.”
Dr Lasslett added: “We note that the Paga Hill Development Company has condemned both the NCDC and Curtain Brothers for organising the demolition exercise.
“Yet the company has not explained how this demolition could occur on land it owns, without PHDC’s knowledge, nor have they denied organising an identical style demolition on the exact same portion of land – which at that stage they did not own – in May 2012. Their chutzpah is extraordinary.”
According to the NCDC some of the people left homeless by the most recent exercise have been relocated to a small plot of state land at Gerehu Stage 6. One relocated resident informed ISCI, “it’s not OK, no toilets, no power, no water, no houses and it’s not safe.”
Dr Lasslett said: “Some families have been abruptly shunted off to land at 6-Mile and Gerehu by PHDC and the NCDC respectively, with promises of security.
“Yet it appears they have no enforceable tenure rights to either plot of land, and now live in a terminal state of uncertainty, without anything resembling adequate housing.”