§ MR. HART-DAVIES (Hackney, N.)
To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to Section 4 of Ordinance VII. of 1908, enacted by the administration of Papua, empowering boards locally appointed to decide in a summary manner 1223 all questions as to the ownership of lands in which a Papuan native is claimant, with an appeal to the central Court; whether he is aware that the Papuans are very attached to their land; that, owing to the system of fallows, it is difficult to discriminate between owned and ownerless lands; and that, owing to the extreme ignorance of legal procedure on the part of the Papuans, and to the central Court being situated in one corner of an immense tract of country, the boon of an appeal can be of no use to them; whether he will inquire from the Governor-General of the Australian Commonwealth his reasons for assenting to the Ordinance; and whether he will advise that the Ordinance be amended, with a view to special precautions being taken to safeguard native rights, such as the appointing as a member of every board constituted under the Ordinance a white man familiar with the current native language, who shall be charged to represent native interests and, when necessary, to conduct Papuan land appeals before the central Court, as well as requiring the evidence to be fully taken down in every case and the detailed reasons for every finding recorded.
(Answered by Colonel Seely.) The Secretary of State will ask the Governor-General for a report on the suggestions made by my hon. friend in regard to the recent Papuan Land Ordinance.