Re-opening of public land claims pushed despite Land Court closure
By: L.N. Reklai
August 25, 2016 (Koror) Push to amend the law and re-open claims for public land continues with most recent letter sent by HOTL to Senate President Camsek Chin urging him to take action on the House bill 9-209-25S, HD1. Tied to this bill is the amendment to revive Land Court’s ability to hear and determine land ownership. [restrict]
Land Court was forced to stop conducting land claim hearings and determine land ownership when the law giving it such authority, lapsed on August 11, 2016, due controversy over re-opening of public land claims.
The letter from HOTL accuses Senator J. Uduch Senior, Chairman of Senate JGA Committee of not reporting House bill 9-209-25S out of the committee. Furthermore, it objected to Senator Senior’s public radio shows on the subject stating that these are “posturing for political aspiration” and an excuse not to address “efforts from concern citizens”.
The HOTL letter further implies that Senator Senior as a lessee of land under KSPLA may be trying to protect her interest and refusing to report the bill out of her committee.
The letter urged Senate President Chin to take proper action to facilitate the passage of the bill without further delay.
Meanwhile, Senate bill 9-188 which seeks only to amend the section of the law extending the life of Land Court passed the Senate and was transmitted to the House in April. The bill is the House JGA Committee chaired by Delegate Kemesong. The Committee has not reported out this bill.
The proponents of HB 9-209-25S amendment argue that the law which set the deadline date for filing claims to public land is against the language of the Constitution and ability to file claims should be open and that return of land to rightful owners is a matter of justice. The bill set a new deadline for filing to October 1, 2016.
Opponents of the amendment claim that the Constitution called for law to set the process and that the law set the deadline for filing to January 1, 1989. Those against re-opening of claims to public land say the bill will have damaging legal and economic consequences to the people of Palau.[/restrict]