Honiara City Councilor urges Foreign Investment Board to address logging company violations


REGINALD Ngati, the City Councillor for Vura ward in Honiara, is calling upon the Foreign Investment Board to take action against logging companies that flout the laws of the Solomon Islands.

Ngati’s plea comes in the wake of a dispute with Southern Enterprise Sawmilling Company Ltd, a licensee of Graceland Logging Company Limited, which has agreed to compensate Ngati with $80,000 for the illegal cutting of 21 logs in Small Malaita.

However, Ngati alleges that the company has refused to cover the costs of environmental damage to the land and has instead urged him to pursue the matter in court.

Ngati expressed disappointment when he discovered that the Deed of Agreement provided by the company did not bear his signature.

“I call on the Investment Board to recognize that there are logging companies that disregard the Forestry Act, the Environment Act, and other related laws governing their investments in these sectors,” Ngati stated, emphasizing the importance of condemning such practices if the nation is to safeguard its future in forestry.

Ngati urged the government to promptly address companies engaged in such practices, asserting, “Obviously, they breached the Act. The company wants us to go to court, but the Act already determines what should be done. We don’t need to go to court with this. My government should start considering not allowing such companies to operate in our nation because our Constitution protects resources and resource owners.”

Reflecting on his own situation, Ngati added, “I am a victim, and I have heard of other victims who ended up in court, fighting and even killing each other, but now I am a victim myself.”

In response, Elijah Awa of Southern Enterprise Sawmilling Company Ltd acknowledged the company’s agreement to pay $80,000 but contended that the costs of environmental damage were not included in Ngati’s original claim. He suggested that if Ngati wished to pursue these costs, he should take the matter to court.

Earlier, Minister of Forestry and Research, Dickson Mua Panakitasi, exercised his powers under Section 39(2) of the Forest Resources and Timber Utilization Act. His decision deferred the suspension of the Appellant’s felling license A10112, pending the outcome of the dispute over encroachment into Sulukokolo customary lands.

Minister Panakitasi urged the Appellant and Grace Logging (SI) Limited to resolve the issue of encroachment and trespass on Sulukokolo customary land without the permission of the Sulukokolo tribal landowners. If the conditions are settled, the suspension order may no longer have any effect, and the license may be reinstated.

Minister Panakitasi emphasized that his decision was made with fairness and justice in mind, aiming to ensure a just resolution of the matter and considering the interests of all parties involved.

Stakeholders have commended the Minister’s commitment to a balanced approach in handling this complex issue, aligning with the provisions of the Forest Resources and Timber Utilization Act.

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