The Malaita Traditional Governing Council of Chiefs (MTGCC) today welcomed the National Government's new approach to settle customary land disputes in the country.

The Government through the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs has outlined the new approach in a draft Bill known as the "Tribal Land Dispute Resolution Panels Bill 2008.

Government Authorities have taken the bold step in view of the ever increasing land disputes that hinders many development initiatives in the country.

Announcing the Bill on Tuesday, Minister for Justice and Legal Affairs, Toswell Kaua said the Bill will be circulated widely around the country for peoples' comments and views before a final copy is tabled in parliament.

Since the adoption of the West Minister Legal system at Independence, modern courts often have difficulties in addressing tribal land disputes.

Moreover, current laws to settle tribal land disputes are inadequate and often lack in-depth knowledge of the diverse cultures of Solomon Islands.

Vice Chairman of MTGCC, Rocky Hardy Tisa said Malaita Chiefs believed that if the bill becomes law, Solomon Islands will see an end to land disputes.

"We are very encouraged with the new move and would like to congratulate the government for realizing that overdue problem," Tisa said.

The first recorded tribal land dispute in the country's history was dated back to 1919.

"Since then, the number continued to grow and many remained unsolved while others took too long and are very expensive to be addressed," Tisa said.

He said the MTGCC is ready to work closely with the government during the process.

Mr Tisa said it is in the best interest of Malaita chiefs and tribal leaders that the process must involve the drafting of the country's Customary Law, specifically to address land disputes.

"Many Malaitan Leaders who are proponents of the idea have died already but we continue to believe that this is the right way forward to address traditional issues that hinders development in the country," he concluded.

Press Release (Government Communications Unit)