Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tiyan Taskforce wants land return bill changed: Landowners ask for a set timeline for Ancestral Lands to process cases

Tiyan Taskforce wants land return bill changed: Landowners ask for a set timeline for Ancestral Lands to process cases

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Sunday News • January 10, 2010

A group of Tiyan landowners met yesterday to discuss Bill 278-30, which they believe must include a second section in order for the heirs of original landowners to stand a chance of receiving their estates.

Benny Crawford, chairman of the Tiyan Taskforce, said at a meeting held yesterday at Christ Bible Fellowship Church in Upper Tumon that the second section must include specific language that states how long the Ancestral Lands Commission will take to process each landowner's case and issue the deeds.

A public hearing will be held on the matter on Jan. 14 at the Legislature, where Tiyan landowners hope to persuade senators to move forward with the land exchange.

"Specific language is important with the government of Guam because if it isn't, we will never get anywhere," Crawford said. "It has to be specific for it to happen."

The one-section Bill 278-30 consists of seven lines that identify parcels of land in the Tiyan area that are pending return to the original landowners or their heirs. However, former Sen. Pete Perez said the weakness in the measure is that it doesn't provide any mechanism to transfer the land back to the heirs.

Perez, who is also an attorney assisting the Tiyan Taskforce, told the landowners that without any specific wording or language, it could be some time before they get the land.

"If you are going to rely simply on that measure, I can assure everyone here that you will never see a square inch of land," Perez said. "The one-section bill says nothing about actually returning any land to any of you. ... It is up to everyone here to come out and say the measure doesn't go far enough."

Crawford said he hopes a specification of 180 days will be made as a timeline for the return of the land. He added that the Tiyan Taskforce has identified 49 landowners for the roughly 800 acres of land in question.

Ronald T. Laguana, who is representing one of seven heirs to Lot 2156, said he believes adding specific language to the document will assist the landowners in reacquiring the land.

"The language should be included that these lands be identified by the list of names of the original landowners, if possible," Laguana said.

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