Sevev land tribe claims total ownership over Russell islands

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By Alfred Sasako

IN what is deemed to be a historic milestone, Russell Islands’ Sevev Land Trust Board has “legally forfeited” the Lever Solomon Ltd’s Fixed Term Estates (FTE) titles in Russell Islands, it was announced this week.

But the Chairman of Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL), Patrick Wong described the ownership claim as “a dream”, saying these FTE titles remain in the name of Lever Solomons Limited.

Sevev Tribal Chief and Chairman of the Sevev Land Trust Board, Leslie Norris, yesterday confirmed the takeover to Island Sun.

Mr Norris said the Sevev Land Trust Board has resorted to the action because LSL has failed to pay up its rentals for the entire Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL).

“The people of Russell Islands and indeed Solomon Islands should be relieved that after 100 years of foreign ownership of the plantations on Russell, the Sevev Tribe has resolved the ownership issue.

“We are finally in control,” Norris said.

The ownership claim is certain to open the Pandora’s Box as rival tribes as well as LSL react to the news of the takeover.

In a statement yesterday, the Sevev Land Trust Board said, “Previously, in 2013, the Sevev Land Trust Board had successfully applied and obtained the Perpetual Estates (PE) Titles of the said properties.

“After a long and hard fought legal engagement, the Registrar of Titles had finally registered the forefeiture process according to law,” the statement said.

“This means that Lever Solomon Ltd no longer has any legal claims to the Russell Islands Estates. Any attempts by LSL to enter Russell Islands without the consent or permission of the Sevev Land Trust Board would be considered illegal and amount to trespass.

“By the legal process as undertaken by the Sevev Land Trust Board, Russell Islands is now under the full ownership and control of the indigenous Russell Islanders, thanks to the said Sevev Land Trust Board’s efforts.

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“Sevev Land Trust Board, on behalf of the Sevev Tribe, (is) now the legal custodians of the whole of Russell Islands, by law and custom. Any future development considerations in respect of the archipelago will be the onus of the Sevev Land Trust Board,” the statement.

But RIPEL Chairman, Patrick Wong denied that FTEs in the Russell Islands were surrendered in 2011.

“…these FTE titles remain in the name of Lever Solomons Limited,” he said in an email yesterday.

“The documents you have located, looks like the surrender document, formed as an attachment to the Sale Agreement, which the Company had with SIG in 2011.

“This Sale Agreement was executed by the then Prime Minister, the Honourable Danny Philip, and this was witnessed by about 50 people in the Cabinet room plus this signing ceremony was also witnessed by 50 people and recorded on One TV.

“If you look closer at page one, the words written and signed by a Notary Public, was signed by Dennis McGuire of Sol-Law,” Wong said.

“Why are the FTE still with LSL? – simple … because SIG never paid the Purchase Price. The Originals would still be with Sol-Law and were never ever released to SIG; to be filed with the Commissioner of Lands – Registrar of Titles.

“Therefore, any call or notation that LSL has already surrendered the FTE back in 2011 is only a dream,” Mr Wong said.

Commissioner of Lands, Nelson Noapu, was asked whether he was aware of and given consent to the transfer of the RIPEL FTE titles to the Sevev Land Trust Board.

“I am aware that Alex Bartlett got PE over a parcel of Land in Russell Islands, and that this has been challenged in court,” was all he could offer by way of an answer to the question.

It is understood that the Registrar of Titles has written to LSL, advising it of the takeover of the FTE titles by the Sevev Land Trust Board.

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