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Police tear down homes as families watch helplessly in Honiara

Honiara, Solomon Islands: FIVE families watched helplessly as police demolished their houses in the Lungga-Henderson area, east Honiara in the past days.
Their community chief was arrested yesterday after he tried to intervene in the exercise, which was carried out according to a High Court order.
The five semi-permanent houses were part of nine houses on land parcel No: 192 – 004 – 209, which the Commissioner of Land has now allocated to foreigners Sia Kee Ching and Lau Khing Hung.
The first two houses were pulled down last week, three yesterday, while the rest will be torn down in coming days.
Sheriff of the High Court Richard Muaki said they were merely acting on a High Court order.
He said the families have been occupying the land illegally, according to the court order they were acting on.
“Land applications and allocations were matters the Ministry of Lands was responsible for,” he said.
“So we have nothing to say on that. What we are doing here is basically acting on a court order that asked us to demolish these houses and order its occupants to vacate the land,” Mr Muaki said.
The action took the families by surprise because they claimed their lawyer had appealed against the High Court order demanding them to leave the land.
A spokesman for the families, Edward Matevaka, said the police action was harsh and inappropriate when they have already, through their lawyer, lodged an appeal.
He said their appeal was based on the grounds they’ve lived on the plot of land for a long time and have also submitted applications to the Commissioner of Lands.
“Our applications are still pending before the Commissioner of Lands and then you have these two foreigners coming in and outrightly acquired the land.
“Where is the justice here? Aren’t we Solomon Islands entitled to apply for state land? Why the two foreigners, is it because they have money?” Mr Matevaka asked.
However, Mr Muaki said the appeal the families were talking about does not supersede the order to demolish the houses.
He explained a notice of eviction was issued on 13th October 2013 for the families to leave the land so that its legal owners could take ownership of the land.
Mr Muaka said the order was issued without enforcement and was genuinely asking the families to voluntarily vacate the land.
“We approached them with flexibility and gave them enough time since then but after several visits to the site, the order was not adhered to.
“It was never adhered to, thus the owners applied for enforcement order to the high court, which was granted on 10th March 2014,” he said.
According to the eviction notice, all settlers should vacate the land by 5pm on 28th March 2014.
The land in questioned was located at the Cross Road area, a few metres to the east of what used to be Taj Mahal Restaurant.
Solomon Times
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