Master and puppet

Stock pile of tubi on San Jorge island. Photo supplied.
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A MALAYSIAN logging company that pleaded guilty to the illegal harvesting of tubi trees in Isabel has been given the right to sell those tubi logs.

Environment minister Titus Fika made the directive in a letter he issued last December.

But the decision has angered landowners of Korona, on San Jorge Island, who were already in advanced stage to sell the logs to a foreign buyer.

“This is not fair,” landowner spokesman Wilson Tohidi told the Island Sun.

“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.”

Malaysian logger 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 is 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 to admit guilt.

He was subsequently fined $50,000, which he found no difficulty paying off.

Tohidi said landowners don’t expect the Government to keep giving favours to a logging company that was already 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 Sunrise Investment to sell them.

“Where is justice and common sense in this?

“Whose interest is the Government serving?

“Does this government still care about its people and the resources of this nation?” Tohidi asked.

Comments are being sought from Fika.

Island Sun understands Tohidi and his group have taken up a case in the High Court on this matter.