Logger’s lawyer appeals for Minister to lift suspension


ANT Legal Services recently submitted an appeal to Minister Dickson Mua, urging the lifting of the suspension placed on Sunway (SI) Limited, a logging company.

The suspension was imposed by Commissioner of Forest, Reeves Moveni, who suspended the Felling License No. A102303 of Sunway (SI) Limited, preventing the company from conducting logging operations on the registered land PE 142-001-24 in Vangunu, Western Province, which is under the ownership of the Geruana Tribe Trust Board Association (GTTBA).

According to ANT Legal Services, the Commissioner of Forest notified Sunway (SI) Limited about the suspension on 16th June 2023. Subsequently, on 23rd June 2023, the managing director of the company wrote to Minister Mua, seeking an appeal of the suspension notice.

ANT Legal Services has raised concerns about the decision-making process, alleging that the Commissioner of Forest may have been unduly influenced or placed in a conflict of interest due to the vested interest of Dr Vaeno Vigulu, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary.

They have drawn attention to a related ongoing civil case, High Court Civil Case No. 162 of 2023, which involves Plinty Vigulu and Dr Vaeno Vigulu, who happens to be the permanent secretary to Minister Mua.

Interestingly, the Commissioner of Forest is named as one of the defendants in this case.

The legal services firm argues that the Commissioner of Forest’s decision to suspend the felling licence appears to pre-empt the ongoing court case involving the Vigulu brothers.

They question the Commissioner’s ability to impartially and independently handle the allegations outlined under Section 39 of the Forest Resources and Timber Utilization Act (FRTU Act).

Additionally, ANT Legal Services highlights that the Commissioner’s show cause letter dated 1st June 2023 did not provide an independent written report to the licensee and the land trustees, neglecting to substantiate or dismiss the allegations made by Plinty Vigulu, the brother of the Permanent Secretary.

Both Sunway (SI) Limited and the land trustees deny these allegations, yet they have been denied the opportunity to respond to the complaint.

ANT Legal Services expresses concern that their response may fall on deaf ears due to the involvement of the Permanent Secretary in the case.

They suggest that the Commissioner of Forest’s alleged predetermined decision, along with the perceived undue influence and conflict of interest, makes it necessary for the suspension issue to be brought before the court as part of the ongoing High Court Civil Case No. 162 of 2023.

This would provide the licensee and land trustees with a fair opportunity to present their case before an independent party.

In light of these circumstances, ANT Legal Services, on behalf of their client, requests that Minister Mua considers the appeal and lifts the suspension order imposed by the Commissioner of Forest.

They propose that Plinty Vigulu brings his complaint to court through the ongoing civil case, ensuring a fair and impartial hearing for all parties involved.

Neither Minister Mua nor the Ministry of Forest and Research has issued a response or statement regarding this matter at the time of reporting.

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