PM orders probe

Prime Minister Hon Rick Hou during press conference with media on Monday
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Prime Minister’s office orders investigation into logging of government land

By Alfred Sasako

THE Management of Mbahumea logging company is calling for urgent police investigation into why the Commissioner of Forest, Reeves Moveni, issued a felling licence to log government land.

The call coincides with a directive by the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday that the Commissioner’s activities be put under the microscope.

It follows an investigation by the Island Sun newspaper which uncovered a major fraud in the forestry industry, linking Commissioner Moveni, who issued a felling licence for the operation despite being aware that the land was on lease to the government.

Documents obtained by Island Sun show Mr Moveni signed off Parcel Numbers 191-060-1, 191-060-2 and 191-060-3 for the logging operations.

The Map of the Reserve shows these Parcel Numbers are the same numbers for the catchment area, over which the Government has a 75-year lease.

The government is paying $500,000 in rentals for the three parcels, according to documents obtained from the Honiara Land Registry.

These documents show Mr Moveni granted Felling Licence No. A101521 to Mbetilonga Land Holdings Group Community Company Ltd on April 24, 2015.

Under the licence, the company is given an annual production quota of 50,000 cubic metres – 40,000 cubic metres for export annually and an additional 10,000 cubic metres of sawn timber, the documents show.

The company has since entered into a “Mutual Technology and Management Agreement” with an Asian company called One Pacific Company Ltd. The document was signed by a Mr Peter Isaac, a Mr Aaron Devesi, a Mr Serapino Pero and a Mr Sam Kulolo on behalf of Mbetilonga Land Holdings Group Community Company Ltd.

Mr Wong Heek Ping, signed as director on behalf of One Pacific Company Ltd.

A spokesman for Mbahumea Logging Company told Island Sun yesterday illegal logging practices had gone on for far too long.

“We are calling on the police to investigate this matter because the logging operation in Parcel Nos. 191-060-01, 191-060-02 and 191-060-03 in east Guadalcanal is illegal. It is illegal because the land is on lease to the government for 75 years, from 2nd December 1980,” the spokesman said.

“If regular police including members of the Criminal Investigation Division are unable to do it for one reason or another, then Janus, the special anti-corruption crack unit should step in immediately,” the spokesman told Island Sun yesterday.

“The illegal practice has been allowed to go on for far too long. It is time those knowingly allowed this type of practice to continue unabated are made to answer for their actions.”

Meanwhile Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela yesterday ordered his Chief of Staff, John Usuramo “to get to the bottom of the matter”.

Mr Usuramo has established a four-man team to undertake the task.

“We will investigate this matter and take (the) necessary action as soon as we obtain further information. We cannot tolerate such actions,” the Prime Minister said in a statement issued by the Press Secretariat yesterday.

The statement said the Prime Minister has taken the Island Sun report seriously and assured that the individuals, including any government officer that is involved in such illegal activities, will be dealt with accordingly.

“We are concerned that the Government is losing tens of millions of dollars through this kind of dealing. The time has come that this must stop,” a spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister told Island Sun yesterday.