Lavukal chiefs celebrate court of appeal victory and more

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By Alfred Sasako

LAVUKAL Chiefs and their tribesmen and women on Russell Island who opposed Chief Samuel Kubu, Leslie Norris, John Whiteside and Wilson Rano, are in a celebratory mood this week as they welcome good news on two fronts.

First, the Appeal which Rano lodged on their behalf was dismissed and they won an Appeal Case brought against them by their opponents led by Chiefs Samuel Kubu and Leslie Norris.

The case was earlier dismissed, in the lower court – the High Court of Solomon Islands, after it found that the lawyer acting for the group, Wilson Rano and Chief Kubu alone did not have the authority to act on behalf of Lavukal, Chief Kubu and the entities he said he (the Chief) represented.

Evidence surfaced in a sworn statement during the hearing that it seems like, it was Whiteside and Van Vlymen who were the real party, behind this, as when Rano first received notice from the Court, Rano first sent to Whiteside an email requesting Cost.

The email requested Whiteside pass on to the Chiefs, when Rano was already in direct contact with Chief Kubu and Leslie Norris. It begs the question as to why Rano sent Whiteside that email, unless he (Mr Whiteside) was behind the case from the very beginning.

Against all odd, the group opposed Leslie Norris and Kubu Appeal application, who asked the High Court Judgement be dismissed. But instead the Court of Appeal, in its sitting in Honiara this week, dismissed the appeal and the Judgement of the High Court now stands.

The case threatened further development of the Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL) on Russell, as Chef Kubu, Chief Leslie Norris, Whiteside and Rano tried to include RIPEL, LSL, ICSL and even named Augustine Rose and Patrick Wong, as individuals.

Sydney lawyer Simon Burchett represented Patrick Wong and other Defendants in the initial case as well as at the Court of Appeal.

He told Island Sun on Monday night in Honiara that the matter came down to the difference between the Appeal and whether the Appellants have the authority to appeal the decision. The Court of Appeal found as did the High Court the appellants did not have the authority to appeal the initial decision.

The second good news for the Lavukal Chiefs and their people this week is that RIEPL developer, Patrick Wong promised them that the victory in the Court of Appeal now unlocks more dividends. They would get “three times the dividends” they received last August.

That month Mr Wong paid out about $498,000 in Dividends royalties to the Lavukal Company and in turn the company paid out to the Chiefs and their tribesmen and women and was shared by all the tribes-people.

“We have finally come to the end of all the delays and road blocks, engineered by a selected few. This week’s decision now clears the path for this development to go ahead. I appeal to you all to work together; to develop your resources for your people’s benefit, always act in the best interest of Lavukal and its people” he told a gathering of the Chiefs at the Monarch Hotel (formerly Iron Bottom Sound hotel) on Monday night.

“Now that this matter is cleared, you will be getting more in dividend royalties. In fact, you will get three times more than what you received last time,” he said.

“I am happy you stuck by me and stood up against those who did not tell the truth and took Lavukal people for a ride. You believed in me and we are now at the end of a lengthy bad dream. It was not easy but we have achieved the outcome we have always wanted to achieve.”

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