Environment minister Fika denies issuing directive, documents show otherwise
By EDDIE OSIFELO
ENVIRONMENT minister Titus Fika has denied giving Sunrise Investment Ltd the right to sell tubi trees the Malaysian logger illegally harvested on San Jorge, Isabel.
He has also denied issuing any directives to Customs and other state authorities to facilitate and assist Sunrise export the logs.
Fika dismissed our front page report on the tubi issue on Monday this week, describing the news article as “untrue”.
Well we have news for the minister.
Published here is copy of the letter Fika signed and delivered to Customs on December 21, 2020.
That was after Sunrise owner Richard Ngea pleaded guilty to the illegal harvesting of tubi and fined $50,000 in the Magistrates Court.
The letter was copied to various government ministries and departments, including the Attorney General’s Chamber.
Fika stated in the letter that he had used his power under the Wild Life Protection and Management Act to seize the logs.
Therefore, he said, the tubi logs, are now Solomon Islands Government properties.
Furthermore, he said the Director of Environment had issued a permit to allow Sunrise to sell the logs on behalf of the Solomon Islands Government.
Fika’s decision came despite advanced efforts landowners on San Jorge have taken to sell the logs, which are rightfully theirs.
Landowner spokesman Wilson Tohidi said the minister should work with and assists landowners than serving the interest of a foreign logger.
“Whose interest is the minister and this Government serving?” Tohidi asked.
“Here is a foreign logger that comes in and illegally cut down our trees.
“The company owner himself admitted guilt.
“The minister did the right thing by seizing the logs from the company.
“But why is the minister giving back those logs to the very logging company that tries to steal them at the first place?
“Where is justice and common sense in this?
“Something is not right Mr Minister.
“We wish to let you know that we the landowners have the financial capacity to sell the logs.
“In fact we have already secured a buyer.
“Just give us back our logs and we will sell them for the benefit of the resource owners and the country as a whole,” Tohidi appeals.
He added landowners would benefit more from their logs if they were given the rights to sell.
According to Government calculations Island Sun has cited, if Sunrise sells the logs, they will receive 60 percent of proceeds of sale.
A $500,000 goodwill will be paid to the Government to support enforcement of the Wildlife Protection and Management Act.
25 percent of the proceeds will be paid to the Government.
15 percent will be paid to landowners.