Gov’t will pay $50 million for Hell’s Point but don’t hold your breath

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By Alfred Sasako

UNCONFIRMED reports have suggested that there is in-principle agreement by Government to pay the $50 million ordered by the High Court for the Hell’s Point waste land in east Honiara.

But don’t hold your breath. It may not be this government that would fork out the bill.

There are indications that the Government has received fresh legal advice that the ruling by the High Court on the matter “is binding.”

As a result, the government is required to honor the High Court ruling. However, the delay in settling the payment has been attributed to hard economic time the nation is going through.

There is a possibility that the payment could be addressed either wholly or in part in the event a mini budget is brought down mid-year. Last year the government brought in three mini budgets after budgetary targets were missed.

The tussle over the $50 million almost brought the government to its knee in recent weeks. There were those who supported the payment and there were those who were against it.

In the end Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela was accused of reneging on undertakings he allegedly entered into with his Deputy and Finance and Treasury Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.

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Since then both men have reportedly made up, consolidating the position of the new SI DCC Government.

Meanwhile Russell Islands’ tribal landowner, Silas Selo, says the government should never pay the $50 million, saying the terms of the sales of land to RIPEL and Levers Solomon Ltd lands have expired almost 40 years ago.

“The terms of sales of all the alienated land – and this includes RIPEL and LSL land in Solomon Islands – expired at midnight on 7th July 1978 when Solomon Islands gained political independence from Britain.

“All the alienated land returned to their original owners on that day by virtue of the expiry of the terms of sales,” Mr Selo said.

“This fact alone puts an end to any claims of ownership by anyone, including Patrick Wong and LSL over any of the alienated land.”

Mr Selo said he was encouraged by an assurance given by the Premier Patrick Vasuni that his government would not issue an operating licence to Mr Wong to operate any business in Central Islands Province.

“The Hon Premier’s position is based on two factors – the expiration of the terms of the land sales prior to independence and secondly the fact that Mr Wong had surrendered all the lands he once claimed in Russell Islands to the Commissioner of Lands in recent years.

“The Hon Premier says all the legal issues must first be cleared before issuance of operating licence can be considered,” Mr Selo said.

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