By Alfred Sasako
IT has emerged that controversial businessman, Patrick Wong, was brought into Solomon Islands as an employee of the Copra Export Marketing Authority (CEMA), not as an investor.
“The CEMA Board employed him to reorganise the Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL). This means that when the term of the CEMA Board expired, he too was finished,” Russell Islands tribal landowner, Silas Selo told Island Sun in an exclusive interview yesterday.
The emergence of this new information is significant because it proves Mr Wong had no legal right to claim anything. He was merely an employee, not an investor, Mr Selo said.
The revelation comes amidst reports that some people stand to gain significant benefit from the $50 million the High Court ordered the Government to pay for the Hell’s Point waste land in east Honiara.
Island Sun was informed that up to $20 million from the payment would be paid to those who convince the government to pay.
Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela has put his foot down against the payment, although some reports suggest that there is in-principle agreement for future government to make the payment later.
Selo said the very reason the 1994 CEMA Act was enacted was for the sole reason that all alienated land held by foreigners up to July 7, 1978 were to be returned to the traditional landowners.
“All freehold land titles were converted into Fixed Term Estates (FTEs) then. So it means that even freehold land owned by Levers Solomon Ltd were returned to the traditional landowners,” Selo said.
“This means Mr Wong is not entitled to be paid a single penny. He owns nothing and Solomon Islands owes him nothing. The Government should never pay the $50 million,” Selo said, adding there should be a judicial review into the High Court decision awarding the payment.
“I believe the High Court may have been misled on the background of the so-called transactions involving the Hell’s Point land and LSL’s ownership of it,” he said.
“There should be a judicial review.”