Logger wants review of Bio-Security land decision
By EDDIE OSIFELO
EXCELLENT Resources Management Ltd is asking the Land Board to review the decision taken by Commissioner of Land, Alan McNeil over the land occupied by Bio Security at Ranadi, East Honiara.
The land parcel No. is 192-010-003.
McNeil had issued a Notice of Resumption on March 16 on the land to retain it for public purpose and to continue hosting the biosecurity quarantine incinerator.
But, company lawyer Gabriel Suri explained to the Chairman of Land Board in a letter sent on April 8 that his client’s interest to acquire Fixed Term Estate (FTE) on the land is to enable it to establish an oxygen gas factory for production of industrial and medical oxygen gas.
Suri said his client has carried out a study on the supply of and demand for oxygen gas and it is apparent that oxygen is being imported and supplied at very huge costs.
He said the demand of the National Referral Hospital for oxygen is very substantial; and it requires constant supply of oxygen at reasonable price.
Furthermore, Suri said if established, the oxygen gas factory will be able to supply oxygen gas to hospitals in the country on reliable basis and at reasonable price.
He said this component of the service is, therefore, a public purpose as well.
“It is a public purpose that requires support of your Land Board and the Government.
“With the threat posed by COVID-19 pandemic and other impending pandemic diseases, all hospitals in Solomon Islands must be adequately supplied with oxygen gas,” he said.
Suri said his client is ready and willing to provide this public purpose service to ensure that Solomon Islands has the medical capacity to deal with life threatening pandemics.
Further to that, Suri said by virtue of the new Part IIA enacted in 2014, section 8C (5), any land recovered by the Commission by forfeiture or resumption shall not be allocated within a period of six months.
He said Section 8C (6) also states that the Commissioner shall only exercise a power to carry out any function in subsection (4) of that section if there is a written directive from the Board to the Commissioner.
Moreover, section 4(4) of the Land and Titles Act vest power in the Land Board to give general or special direction to the Commissioner of Lands in relation to his holding and dealing in interest in land.
Suri said it is their opinion that the Board has power to give general and specific policy directions on the scope of public policy.
“As regarding PN.192-010-033, production of oxygen gas for medical purposes should be classified as public purpose under your policy.
“The Commissioner of Lands should be able to identify another land for biosecurity quarantine incinerator,” he said.
Commissioner of Lands had transferred the FTE title held by Honiara City Council to Excellent Resources Management Ltd, a logging company on January 7 this year.
The company paid transfer costs of $800,000 into the HCC bank account and outstanding rental at Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey.
Initially, Commissioner of Lands had granted the FTE title to Honiara City Council on September 26, 1986.
However, the transfer of the land to the company did not go down well with Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
“The land is used for destruction of all garbage removed from international vessels and aircraft coming into Solomon Islands,” Director of Biosecurity of MAL, Francis Tsatsia said in a strongly-worded statement issued recently.
“It’s a requirement that garbage of this sort must be offloaded and incinerated as biosecurity risk is very high,” Tsatsia added.
“Normal garbage for incinerator in this premises are plants and plant products and animal and their products.”
Tsatsia said another option is for the Biosecurity department to move to Henderson, however it will be a risk for Aviation operation there because of smoke to be released from coming burning garbage.
Permanent Secretary Ethel Tebengi Frances said she is very disappointed about the action taken by HCC to sell off the land without consulting her ministry.
“At least the courtesy to inform us so we can negotiate with them (HCC),” Frances said.
“This is a threat to national security of this country during these COVID-19 pandemic as wastes from flights into the country poses a huge threat,” she added.
Frances had said MAL would not go down without a fight to retain this piece of land for our national security.