RIPEL and LSL directors stage a weekend coup in visiting Russell
By Alfred Sasako
IT was a coup of sorts as directors of Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL) and Lever Solomon Ltd (LSL) and their boss, businessman Patrick Wong returned to a hero’s welcome on Russell Islands over the weekend.
The visit follows an invitation to the Board of Directors of RIPEL and LSL by Lavukal Chiefs, according to sources familiar with the visit, which was kept under wrap from the public.
Sources told Island Sun last night the joint Board of directors accepted the invitation and on Saturday, Directors Maurice Mae, Augustine Rose, Marion Wong, Oliver Salopuka, Patrick Wong and John Kapentana slipped in quietly landed at Marulaon Village in West Russell, using a helicopter.
Up to 500 people were at hand to welcome the delegation, many of whom had heard through the grapevines that businessman Patrick Wong himself would be amongst the delegation.
“They were not disappointed as Mr Wong stepped out to join in the celebration and feasting that followed. Mr Wong was also the star attraction as he addressed many of the outstanding issues,” one source said.
“About half a dozen of the ex-Worker representatives also attended. The day started with customary dancing and welcome speeches,” the source said.
“It was a huge event as one could see from the number of people who were there and the quantity of food prepared beforehand for the occasion.”
The source said Paramount Chiefs, village chiefs and clan chiefs all extended and expressed their welcome to all the directors.
“After all the formalities the main part of the event started as the people were waiting to hear for themselves, directly from Mr Patrick Wong,” another source present at the ceremony said.
The source said a number of questions were raised, ranging from what will happen to Yandina, will company resume, to the current High Court case and the Court of Appeal case, Scholarship, return of Shares to Lavukal Investment Company Limited and the payment of Dividends.
Wong explained to the crowd that the Company was in discussions with SIG, adding this has slowed down, as SIG was supposed to pay LSL $50 million for Hells Point based on the High Court ruling and enforcement Orders.
He told them that despite holding a Court Order, issued in November last year plus serving an Enforcement Order issued by the High Court of Solomon Islands, SIG has not come forward despite repeated number of letters and emails to the Office of the Prime Minister.
Wong said it was extremely difficult if government of the day does not wish to enter into dialogue and does not obey the orders of the High Court of Solomon Islands.
On scholarship, Wong said that the Board have a number of plans, however these have not been finalised yet nor have they been passed by the Board. He explained that some will take up to 6-12 months to implement.
On the Court cases, Wong explained that Judge Kouhota handed down his Judgement on May 11, 2018. The judgement dismissed the case and Ordered that Chief Kubu and lawyer Wilson Rano pay the cost on a 50/50 basis.
“It was made clear, that on this occasion, the Court did not rule that Lavukal pay, despite the proceedings was started in the name of Lavukal,” Wong told them.
He said there was no Application for a Stay of those Orders and accordingly, the Orders of May 11, 2018 “are still alive and enforceable.”
Wong said he believed an Appeal was filed, but lawyers for the Defendants have all not been served.
“I am not sure who filed the Appeal, was it the Lavukal as appellant or a selected few like Samuel Kubu and Leslie Norris, however indications are that Lavukal name has again been used.
“In the end, this is a matter for Lavukal to consider. Take proper advice and act accordingly, stressing that when making such a serious and important decision, they must always act what is always in the best Interest of Lavukal.
“Not what is in the best interest of either Mr Wim Van Vlymen; not what is in the best interest of Mr Patrick Wong; not what John Whiteside wants – BUT instead what Lavukal all wants,” the source who attended the meeting said.
“If Lavukal truly elects to continue with the Appeal, the Company Lawyers and Barristers are ready.”
Wong then explained there is No Stay on the Judgement Orders of 344/2017 Court case by Judge Kouhota.
“This means these Orders are alive and active. Accordingly the Board has met and decided to return their 3,222,487 shares, as it was one of the prayers of 344/2017.”
As if he kept the best for the last, Mr Wong then turned to address the issue of dividends.
“It was correct that the Company has declared some dividends. There were two lots of Dividends declared. For Lavukal, One was for $ 1.50 million and second one for Four Hundred and Ninety-eight thousand dollars ($498,000)
“The $1.50m is tied up and is directly linked to the court cases. Once these were completed, it would immediately be paid out.”