By EDDIE OSIFELO
MINISTER of Environment, Titus Fika has denied issuing a directive for a logging company to sell tubi logs which the government had previously seized from it.
This denial contradicts documents sighted by Island Sun which show Fika instructing Customs and other authorities last December to facilitate the export of the logs by Malaysian logging company Sunrise Investment Ltd.
Fika’s directive had angered landowners of Korona, on San Jorge island, who were already in the process of selling the tubi logs to a foreign buyer.
“This is not fair,” landowner spokesman Wilson Tohidi told the Island Sun earlier.
“These logs are from our land. We have the right to sell them,” Tohidi added.
“The government cannot take those logs away from us and give them to the same company that tries to steal them.
“If we have a government that cares, the right thing is to work with us landowners and provide the support we need to sell the logs.
“The benefit to the landowners and the government will be huge if we do that.”
However, Fika said it is a false information because he did not issue any directive.
He said what happened was landowners sent his former student to ask him to reverse the decision made by former Minister Dickson Mua and remove the court case before the High Court.
“High Court has the power to decide on the issue of tubi export between landowners and the company, not me.
“In the case of tubi container in Noro, the decision of previous minister in allowing landowners to export, that still stand,” he said.
“I’m consulting my PS and Director Environment for advice on this and until then, the decision made by former minister still stand,” he said.
Fika said he is someone fighting against corruption and not a money oriented but task-oriented person.
Sunrise Investment Ltd illegally harvested those logs during the course of its operation last year on Korona land.
The company does not have a licence to fell tubi, which is a restricted species under the Environment Management Act.
But it went ahead and fell over 9,000 cubic metres of tubi logs, which have been stockpiled at the Korona log pond, and its believed to be worth millions of dollars.
Last year, landowners took out a court order that prevented Sunrise from shipping the logs out from Korona.
When a Foreign Investment Division team toured Isabel last December to check on the operations of logging companies there, it found Sunrise Investment and other Asian loggers in breach of their felling licences.
Sunrise and two other logging companies were each slapped with $1 million fines.
At the same time, the Ministry of Environment referred Sunrise Investment to the police for prosecution.
When owner of Sunrise Richard Song Sing Ngea, was brought into the Magistrates Court, he wasted no time in admitting guilt.
He was subsequently fined $50,000, which he had no difficulty paying off.
Tohidi said landowners don’t expect the Government to keep giving favours to a logging company that was caught stealing their resources.
“Here is a logging company that was caught breaking our laws.
“The right course of action for any government to take against such companies is to cancel their licence and deport its owners.
“But look at what Minister Titus Fika has just done.
“He used his ministerial powers to forfeit the logs then gave them back to Sunshine Investment to sell them.”
A case over the ownership issue is before the High Court.