‘GREEN CERTIFICATE’ FOR EFATE LAND DECLARED NULL AND VOID

The Court of Appeal has declared as "null and void" the Certificate of Interest or what is commonly known as 'Green Certificate' dated December 20, 2019 that was reissued or reinstated by the National Coordinator of the Customary Land Management Office only to Family Malasikoto over the Pangona custom land at Devil's Point.

This declaration was made as the Appeal Court upheld the appeal.

The appeal was submitted by Silas Vatoko as First Appellant and Morris Kelly Vatoko as Second Appellant and Nakmau Sambo as Third Appellant, who were favoured through this Court decision.

Respondents are Humphrey Tamata, National Coordinator for Customary Land Management Office as First Respondent and Silu Malasikoto, Toriko Malasikoto and Freddy Malasikoto as Second Respondents.

The Appellants had raised concern that they were not allowed to vote at a meeting held on December 19, 2019 to appoint the representatives of the customer owners of the Pangona Land.

They claimed that section 6H of the Land Reform Act (CAP 123) was not applied to appoint the representatives of the custom owners.

Section 6H of the Land Reform Act covers the variation of names of representatives where all representatives of the custom owner group are appointed by custom owners and must not act without the consent of the custom owners as well as for all members of the custom owner group or all members listed as descendants if original members have died, must be present at a meeting to vary the representatives of the custom owners.

The Appeal Court found that the Efate Island Court had decided that the custom owner of the Pangona Land is Family Malasikoto, but it did not nominate any particular members of Family Malasikoto as the custom owner.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, the Judge had noted that Silas Vatoko had been the spokesman for Family Malasikoto before the Efate Island Court.

The Supreme Court referred to the family tree of the family and found that Family Vatoko are part of the Family Malasikoto, which meant that they they have interests in Pangona Land.

Consequently, the Supreme Court had found that the exclusion of Family Vatoko from the meeting, held on December 19, 2019, where representatives of Family Malasikoto were selected, was not in accordance with section 6H of the Land Reform Act.

This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The costs for Appellants was shared by the Appeal Court among the National Coordinator and Second Respondents to pay the cost of the appeal at  VT120,000.

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