Kolonia denies knowledge of “squatters” when it executed Public Market leases with State

Civil action asks court to require State to remove trespassers from the zero dollar leased land

By Bill Jaynes The Kaselehlie Press December 22, 2016 Pohnpei, FSM—

In May of this year, the registrar of the State Land Registry recorded a 55 year lease between Pohnpei State and Kolonia Town for three properties commonly known as the “Public Market”. At that time, and for quite some time before that, “squatters” had occupied the land. But Kolonia Town has sworn in a court document that it wasn’t aware that trespassers were occupying the land when it entered into the Commercial Lease Agreements for the three properties. In August of this year, The Kaselehlie Press attempted to contact the Kolonia Town mayor for comments on what was happening with plans to renovate and re-open the Public Market. Mayor San Nicolas said at that time that he could not comment and instructed us to speak with his Administrative Assistant Jack Jack.

Jack said that Mayor San Nicolas instructed him to tell us that Kolonia has a renovation plan for the site and that funding is in place for that plan but that Kolonia has filed suit against the State Government regarding the site. Mr. Jack could not provide details on the contents of the civil action but said that he would ask an attorney to call us about the details. The phone call never came and a message to that attorney was not returned at that time or any other. In fact, it wasn’t until October 26 that Attorney Martin Jano filed a suit against several individuals including “John Does 1 to 20”, the Pohnpei State Department of Land, and the Pohnpei State Government. According to the Pohnpei response to the complaint, the terms of the “zero dollar” lease required Kolonia Town to begin renovation of the Public Market within 90 days of the signing of the lease. Kolonia Town’s Civil Action says in essence that Pohnpei State entered into the lease agreement in bad faith when it executed the lease by not telling Kolonia Town that squatters occupied the land even after the State unsuccessfully tried to evict the trespassers from the sites. It says that Kolonia’s right of peaceful enjoyment of the property was hampered by the State and that it could not enact its business plan to re-establish the Public Market for sale of handicrafts, agricultural, and other products.

The civil action asks for the court to issue an order to defendants that would require the individual defendants to “demolish or remove any and all structures that they may have erected on the premises” and to remove all personal belongings or valuables and vacated the leased premises within that same time period. It asks for the court to order the Pohnpei State Department of Land to remove from the premises “any and all recalcitrant trespassers or squatters.” Pohnpei’s answer to Kolonia Town’s complaint says that Kolonia Town was aware that trespassers were occupying portions of the premises before and during negotiations for the Lease. “Article VI of the three Lease Agreements between Pohnpei State and Plaintiff Kolonia Town Government provides that Lessee acknowledges that it has examined the Premises prior to execution of the Lease, knows the condition of the Premises, acknowledges that no representations have been made by Lessor other than contained in the Lease, and the Lessee accepts the Premises in its present condition at the date of the execution of the Lease.” But Kolonia Town still swears on court documents that it did not know that trespassers were occupying the land when it entered into the leases despite having signed off on the terms including Article VI which was included in each lease. Just the same, Pohnpei offered a settlement offer that would have allowed for a phased relocation of people currently living on the questioned government land and relocation back to the land under a lease agreement. According to an email this evening from the Pohnpei AG, the Kolonia Town Government rejected the offer. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it appears that there is now no further recourse but to allow the court to decide who will be the proper party to handle the eviction of trespassers, Kolonia Town, the lessee, or Pohnpei, the lessor.