Police clarify use of PRT in Rennell logging dispute

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Deputy Commissioner (DC) Operations of the Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) Juanita Matanga describes as misleading an article that appeared in the Solomon Star newspaper on September 8 with the headline, “Firm defies order in logging operations”.

Matanga says, “First let me put it right that the Police Response Team (PRT) as mentioned in the article as appear to be providing the erring company help is not true but PRT responded to a tense situation between parties involved in that matter.

 “Police became involved in that issue because of reports of alleged matters of criminal nature in the dispute between Mr Amos Teikagei and other landowners.

“This issue went on for some time and Supervising Provincial Police Commander (PPC) Renbel Province requested if the RSIPF Executive could authorize the PRT to travel to assist officers at Tigoa Police Station. The Executive refused to allow the PRT to travel because police firmly believe that such issues could be resolved through dialogue. The standoff between all landowners continued.”

DC Matanga further explained that during the first week of February 2021, a death occurred around that area, which involved another male person, murdered another male person. 

At that time, she said the situation on the ground was quiet but then a week later another report from PPC Renbel requesting the assistance of PRT as both parties met and they started again. 

After assessing the situation on the ground police decided to travel to Rennell to establish dialogue instead of a heavy-handed response.

“I want to make it very clear here that I was not accompanied by PRT on board the patrol boat as mentioned in the article.

“Actually, I travelled on a normal routine flight to Rennell and attended to the issue.

“On my arrival, we met with Mr. Teikangei’s in his village and discussed the issue with him.

“During our discussion, I noted that Mr Teikangei’s license  expired in 2019 but he is currently operating under the APIDL license.

“When I asked for the agreement, he mentioned that his paper work is in Honiara.  It has become clear to me that what these people are doing is not proper.

“On the next day, I called for a meeting with the other disputing landowners.  During our meeting, I wanted to understand what was the issue that caused them to fight with Mr Teikangei. 

“It was then explained that the reason why they are not happy is that they agreed with Mr Teikangei to do the re-harvesting logging within Tehakamangoku land including those nearby areas. 

“When they all agreed to do the re-harvesting, Mr Teikangei and his securities when they cut down those trees, they actually recorded those logs under Mr Teikangei’s name.” 

This is where the dispute arose.

“Upon hearing the reasons from both parties, I then arranged a meeting with all of them at the Tigoa Police station on the next day. 

“The purpose of my meeting was to try to resolve the issue.  However, in our discussion, the other party did not trust Mr Teikangei. 

“What they were saying is that he only says what they want to hear because I am still on the Island. 

“Upon observing the situation, I then talked with all of them if they could come up with resolutions for them to abide by. 

“A few weeks later, Mr Teikangei did not honor their resolutions and he continued to cause problems on the Island. 

“For that reason, I asked PPC Renbel to compile all the cases that they have investigated against Mr Teikangei. 

“When the PPC stated that there was sufficient evidence to arrest then I liaised with colleagues to support those on the ground to do the arrest. 

“That is when the patrol boat and PRT travelled to the Island.

“On my arrival back in Honiara, I set up a meeting with the Commissioner of Forestry to ask him as to why he approved the APIDL license when he is fully aware that the mining license which the APIDL is operated under is still before the High Court. 

“In our meeting, the Commissioner of Forestry agreed to look into the matter.  Until today, he never responded to our discussions. 

“But in the Solomon Star article, they have mentioned other operators. 

“At that time of dealing with the situation, there were only two valid logging operators and they are APID and Usuhenua,” says Matanga.