Land court bill transmitted to Senate with public land claims restored

  21 Oct 2016

By: L.N. Reklai

October 20, 2016 (Ngerulmud) House of Delegates transmitted back to Senate, a bill to remove the deadline for Land Court but with amendments reinstating public land claim provisions. [restrict]

Senate bill 9-188 originally sought to amend 35 PNC Section 1304 and RPPL 9-56, to remove completely the deadline date set for Land Court to hear land claims and make land ownership determinations only.

The House version removed the deadline for Land Court but reinstated the reopening of public land claims, including those that did not meet the January 1, 1989 deadline and new private claims to public lands.

The report from the House Committee on Judiciary, Governmental Affairs and Human Rights, states that the amendments are to “bring the nation closer to fulfilling its constitutional mandate of returning public lands to their original owners”.

The amendments include provisions addressing third party leasehold interests on lands claimed by private claimants. The provisions allow for negotiations between land claimants, lessees and mortgagees, and for third party arbiter to arbitrate if no agreement can be achieved within the first 6 months of award of land.

The cost of arbitration will be borne by the public land authority that had the leasehold before the claimant won the case. The amendments continue to prohibit public land authority from being a party to any of the claims.

“I am very upset and disappointed that the House continues to insert this amendment into the Land Court bill,” stated Senator Uduch Senior. “This is going to keep Land Court from addressing important cases before it, the private land cases which are 80% of all cases in front of them,” added Senior.

Earlier, Land Court Senior Judge Quay Polloi had requested both houses of OEK to amend the law to allow Land Court to address over 400 cases involving private land claims while OEK continue to address the public land claims issue.

“I am very surprised too that delegates from other States are not doing anything to help their State public land authorities. They should have public hearings with their PLAs, State governors, speakers and chiefs regarding this bill, especially the amendments that they are adding to this bill,” stated Senator Senior.

House bill 9-209 sought to make the same changes to Land Court bill and reopen public land claims.  Senate added visa provision to the bill and it went to Conference Committee of both houses.  House  rejected the Senate version and the bill died in the House. [/restrict]