Commissioner of forest grilled by public accounts committee

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By Alfred Sasako and Garry Hatigeva

COMMISSIONER of Forest Reeves Moveni – the man accused of knowingly allowing illegal logging activities on government land – was yesterday grilled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the circumstances surrounding the grant of a felling licence to log the Komaridi Reserve in east Guadalcanal.

Felling Licence No. A101521 was granted by Mr Moveni on April 23, 2015. It was granted to Mbetilonga Landholdings Group Community Company Ltd, a local company said to have represented the interests of the land-owning groups.

Mbetilonga Landholdings Group Community Company Ltd has since signed a five-year Mutual Technology and Management Agreement with One Pacific Company Ltd, which is undertaking the logging operations. The felling licence expires on April 23, 2020.

Moveni and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Research, Vaeno Vigulu, appeared before the PAC hearing in Honiara yesterday.

Outspoken PAC Member, Matthew Wale, who is also the MP for Aoke-Langalanga, fired the first salvo at Commissioner Moveni. Hon Wale asked the Commissioner as to who might have givem him the authority to grant the felling licence which allowed One Pacific Company Ltd to harvest Parcel Nos. 191-060-01 to 191-060-03.

The three parcels which cover 5, 560 hectares of virgin forest are within the Komarigi Reserve which is on a 75-year lease to the Government.

Moveni told the PAC hearing that he acted on the basis of advice provided to landowners by the Director of Mines at the time. The landowners were allegedly told that the government had abandoned the Komarigi hydro scheme project with no immediate plans for development.

The Commissioner said all the requirements were followed and processes completed.

But the Aoke-Langalanga MP said there seemed to be a hiccup in the process as officials from both the ministries of Environment and Forestry choose to blame each other for allowing government land to be logged without due regard for the fact that Komarigi Reserve belongs to the Government until its lease expires

“In blaming each other, the two ministries continue to mislead the public,” Hon Wale said.

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