The court this week ruled that the 40 leases and land use rights issued by Chief Ngiribkal Robat Demei to residents of Bkulatiull were void but affirmed Robat Demei’s claim as chief Ngiribkal of Ngeribkal clan of Ngerbeched.
Judgment on Ngeribkal clan titles and Bkulatiull land dispute was finally issued this week. The case has been followed by many people due to the fact that the possible outcome will affect many families that have resided in Bkulatiull for over 50 years. The ruling, though clear, still leaves residents of Tuill in an unclear position.
The case was raised when Robat Demei and Ngedikes Gibbons, both claiming titles of Ngiribkal and Dirribkal of Ngeribkal clan issued leases and land use rights to 40 residents of Bkulatiull, Ngerbeched in their capacity as title bearers of Ngeribkal clan.
This was challenged by Mary Hiroko Sugiyama and Bonicasio Eberdong in this lawsuit, both also claiming titles Ngiribkal and Dirribkal of Ngeribkal clan.
Court ruled that based on evidence provided, Robat Demei, Ngedikes Gibbons, Bonicasio Eberdong are strong members of Ngeribkal clan (ochell).
Court also ruled that Robat Demei was appointed by strong female members and was accepted by council of chiefs of Ngerbeched (Ngarangedchibel) in accordance to accepted custom and therefore the rightful bearer of title Ngiribkal of Ngeribkal clan.
Bonicasio Eberdong who also claimed title Ngiribkal was not able to show proof that he was appointed by strong female clan members or had been accepted by council of chiefs of Ngerbeched.
The court also ruled that even though both Ngedikes Gibbons and Mary Hiroko Sugiyama were strong members of Ngeribkal clan, both did not show proof of proper appointment and acceptance by female council of chiefs.
Robat Demei and Ngedikes Gibbons asserted that Demei as title bearer of the clan can lease clan land and inform strong clan members later without obtaining consent from them first.
Based on custom expert testimony as well as cited previous court decisions, court established that clan title bearers serve as clan property custodians and may give out clan land for use of clan members only. It also established that title bearer needs consent of strong members of the clan before giving out land to non-clan members.
The court ruled that Ngiribkal Robat Demei had the authority to administer and manage Bkulatiull land but he cannot unilaterally grant land use rights or leases to non-clan members without prior consent of strong members of Ngeribkal clan. (L.N. Reklai)