Ruling in favour of logger, not landowners: Moveni
By EDDIE OSIFELO
THE Court of Appeal has granted a Malaysian logging company, Sunrise Investments Limited, rights to export more than 10,000 cubic metres of Xanthostemon logs (tubi) from Korona, San Jorge, Isabel province.
Commissioner of Forest Reeves Moveni confirmed this when asked by Chairman of Public Accounts Committee through a virtual meeting yesterday.
The PAC was enquiring into the 2023 Appropriation Bill 2022 budget.
Moveni said his office facilitated the export by Sunrise company, based on advice from Attorney General, Comptroller of Customs, Jim Sutton and Director of Environment, Joe Horokou.
Ete also asked what the Government’s policy was on the ban of tubi.
Moveni said under the regulation (Forest Resources and Timber Utilization (protected species) Regulations 2012), there was an amendment made where tubi can only be harvested on mining tenement areas only.
He said any place outside of mining tenement is prohibited.
Moveni said this goes in line with approved permits from Director of Environment before his Office can allow.
“If no approval comes from the Director, there won’t be any harvesting,” he added.
However, the landowners of Korona are challenging the government on this case and it is still pending for Judicial Review in the High Court.
The landowners of Korona have described the export as ‘fraud’ and ‘broad daylight corruption’, allegedly backed by Attorney General Office, Solicitor General Savenaca Banuve, Director of Environment Joe Horokou, Commissioner of Forest Reeves Moveni, to allow Sunrise to export the logs on 6th November 2022.
The landowners were convinced after they cited the Bill of lading that shows Sunrise Investments Ltd exported 5,000 cubic meters of tubi trees to the buyer, Karridale PTD, Ltd in China.
Sunrise Investments Ltd got around $4.9 million, the Free on Board (FOB) value of the logs, through a Letter of Credit from Pan Oceanic Bank, on the export.
The Bill of lading document also shows the shipping vessel, MV Victoria Voy loaded the tubi logs at Lelegia.
Lelegia is another log pond, about six kilometers across the pristine Thousand Ships Bay on the mainland of Isabel.
It has also kept huge stockpile of Tubi trees.
Mas Solo Investment Ltd, another Malaysian logger, holds the lease over the area.
The Korona landowners said the tubi issue is still pending for Judicial Review, while the Solicitor General, allegedly unlawfully ordered Director of Environment to issue export permit to Sunrise Investments Ltd.
They claimed Sunrise Investments Ltd owner, Richard Song Sing Ngea did plead guilty last December to a criminal case the Solomon Islands Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) filed on instructions from the Ministry of Environment, accusing the company of illegally harvesting Tubi trees.
Ngea was fined $50,000 (USD$6,232), the maximum penalty for such an offence.
But the company’s license has not been cancelled so it can resume operations if it wishes.
The Korona landowners are calling on appropriate authorities to intervene and investigate this matter in order to get ride off corrupt practice within the ministries and Attorney General office.
“Who do we trust here?” one of the Korona landowners asked.