The Executive Council of Saba is working on a framework policy on how the Public Entity will deal with prescriptive rights of landowners on Saba. In order to develop the framework with a proper legal structure, lawyers from the law firm VanEpsKunnemanvanDoorn has been retained to draft the policy.
No Change in Law
The Executive Council pointed out that the law regarding the ownership has not changed since 1941. Previously notaries were more willing to accept documents such as stamp papers, witness agreements, and other document traditionally used to transfer ownership. In the last few years this has changed. This has prompted the government to intervene, to ensure that property rights of landowners on Saba are respected and most importantly protected.
Traditional transfer documents must be respected
The transfer of land ownership on Saba was historically done much differently than on the other islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. Because most land on other islands in the Dutch Caribbean was owned by the government a Certificate of Admeasurement from the Cadaster was needed transfer ownership. Government has never owned any significant amount of land on Saba; less than 5 per cent of land on the island.
In the past, Sabans generally could not afford the services of notaries, who for the most part were based on another island and therefore found other means in which to transfer land from one person to another. This included stamp papers and accompanying witness statements. These methods of land transfer were done for most of the island’s history dating from its colonial past and have only changed in recent times. The Executive Council is of the opinion that these transfers were done in good faith, customarily witnessed by prominent members of the community and should be respected.
Government does not intend to claim ownership
The Executive Council stated that they wanted to make it clear that they are working in the interest of landowners on Saba and that “government has no intention of taking persons land.” “Most of the land on Saba is privately owned and has been for generations. Government hopes that the policy framework will assist in making sure that it remains that way,” the Executive Council stated.