By Alfred Sasako
NEW Ocean (SI) Ltd – the company accused of allegedly causing environmental damage to drinking water in the Kakabona area, west of Honiara – has hit back, announcing plans to build a water supply and housing scheme for the landowners.
“We have not caused any damage to anything including the river system,” Tabilo Timber Sawmilling Licencee and former politician, Siriako Usa told Island Sun this week.
Mr Usa said accusations levelled at New Ocean (SI) Ltd are all “far-fetched, fabricated and untrue.”
“The people making these accusations never took into account the many good things the company has and continues to do to help my people. For example, New Ocean (SI) Ltd is finalising plans to build a water supply as well as a housing scheme for the landowners, similar to what it has done to landowners in a concession in the Tangarare area of West Guadalcanal.
“No other companies have ever done this sort of community support anywhere that I am aware of. New Ocean (SI) Ltd is starting the two projects next month,” Usa said.
The former Lands minister also levelled some criticisms at the Ministry of Forest and Research as well as the Ministry of Environment and Conservation.
“The bottom line is this. As landowners working closely with New Ocean (SI) Ltd, we feel we have satisfied all the requirements in both Acts,” he said, referring to the Forest Resource and Timber Utilisation (Felling Licences) Regulations 2005 and the Environmental Act.
“We have now responded to their 7-day notice,” he said.
“What my people want is to be allowed to move on. The Ministries should not be listening to individuals that are not connected whatsoever with our concession. We don’t know who these people are,” Usa said.
Usa said if Ministry officials are so strict about protecting the environment, “why aren’t they doing anything about the gravel lease at the Poha River, where gravel from there is dug up almost every day?”
“This is causing problem for people living downstream. But we do not cause problem for anyone. In fact, the company and landowners are working together to improve the livelihood of my people,” Usa said.
“If there’s anything that we are not doing right, please come and talk to us. Guide us to do the right thing instead of making us look as if we were not law abiding people. We are,” Usa said.
Meanwhile, Usa has called on the Leader of the Independent Group, Hon Dr Derek Sikua to ensure “his facts are correct before going to the media.”
Mr Sikua earlier called for the suspension of the Commissioner of Forest and the Director of Environment, claiming both individuals were not doing their work.
A New Ocean (SI) Ltd spokesman said the company is funding a water supply as well as a housing scheme for the landowners.
“These two projects will be starting next month,” the spokesman said, adding the landowners “are very happy” about the company’s operations.
“We enjoy a very good relation with the people and their leader, Siriako Usa,” the spokesman said.