Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/360

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142
BRITISH NEW GUINEA.

had a sole right to the land, that he had parted with it voluntarily, and that he and the tribe were satisfied with the payment given—about £5 worth of trade. These were the only purchases of land made.

Owing to the somewhat unstable and unique relationship that the Imperial and Colonial Governments had occupied with regard to New Guinea, several Europeans had gone through the form of purchasing land from the natives. Two classes of claimants to land were dealt with—those who based their claims on purchases made prior to the proclamation of the Protectorate; those who claimed a prescriptive right to lease lands, on the ground of occupancy or original exploration.

Of the first class, a claim to about 700 acres of land at Port Moresby in 1878, and a claim to 15,000 acres of land alleged to have been purchased in the Kabadi district in 1880, were the most important. Although, under paragraph No. 6 in Commodore Erskine's Proclamation of November, 1884, these claims had no legal basis whatever, yet as there might be special cases, where individuals might in equity appear entitled to consideration, each case was thoroughly investigated by Sir Peter Scratchley.

In the first case, the original purchase had been made in July, 1878; the original purchaser, who had been master of a trading vessel, had died and had assigned his claims to the present claimant, who now claimed about 500 acres of peninsula headland, and two other allotments of about 100 acres each, these two being comprised in the land purchased by the Government as a native reserve. In the purchase of these it was alleged that £600 had been spent. After careful inquiry, it was made clear that certain transactions had taken place, and that certain natives had signed their names to these transactions. It was, however, made equally clear that, putting the trade at its highest figure, not more than £8 was given to the natives for the land.

The claim was refused on the following grounds:—

(a) Under Commodore Erskine's Proclamation it had no legal basis.

(b) Neither of the parties to the transaction had any legal or official authority.

(c) There was no reason shown why in equity any consideration should be given.

As the land in the Kabadi district was stated to be very fertile, the area claimed extensive, and the claim already possessed an official history, a special expedition was made for the purpose of investigation.

This claim was refused on the following grounds:—

(a) Sir Arthur Palmer's Proclamation.