Madam Wayor Tipayson, an executive of the Civil Society Working Group on Land Rights, says the continued delay to pass the Draft Land Rights Act is hindering communities’ ability to effectively protect and manage their customary lands.
Madam Tipayson also observed that the delay was preventing communities from fully participating in national development.
She made the comment over the weekend when she addressed journalists in the conference room of the Search for Common Ground, a local non-governmental organization.
According to the CSO executive, the Act was presented to the National Legislature in 2014 for their consideration and ratification, but despite two public hearings and a number of consultations, the lawmakers went on their annual break without passing the Bill.
Article 32 Section 2 states that “customary ownership is automatically formalized, with or without a deed. The moment the Land Act passes into law, customary land rights will be legally protected where the existence and ownership of customary land shall become enforceable and the effective passage of this Act.”
However, Madam Tipayson alleged that the lawmakers’ failure to meaningfully address the Act “clearly demonstrates that they were prioritizing the interest of other groups over their own people.”
“Indeed,” she said, “while the Legislature is currently on its annual break, the longer it takes to pass this act (would leave) the local communities vulnerable to continually suffer from land tenure insecurity, including large scale land transactions and potentially unlawful land grabs.
“We are of the conviction that the Act, if enacted, provides a perfect opportunity whereby Liberians of all categories will for once enjoy rights and titles to land inhabit peace, democracy, development, and social progress.”
This, according to her, will minimize the numerous land conflicts that the country continues to experience because the rights and opportunities in the document were guaranteed under the Act.
She urged the National Legislature to pass the Act when they resume their duties, and to ensure passage of the core provisions of the document, which defends customary and other provisions that guarantee rights to land ownership.
“We want you people to see our campaign as a platform for you to engage your lawmakers to (fulfill their promise concerning) ownership of customary lands,” she said while asking for the cooperation of the public.
“It is about time that we use our diversity to stand for a cause that will improve the lives of our people and build our nation,” declared Madam Tipayson.