In its approach to revitalise developments in the Russell Islands, the government memorandum of understanding, MOU, with Russel Islands Investment Forum, RIIF and Central Islands province, CIP, is determined to achieve a cross sectoral development framework that benefits all stakeholders.
On Thursday the Government Communication Unit (GCU) released a report to clarify recent media statement by Patrick Wong, saying that RIPEL has never been consulted on any issues relating to RIPEL in Russel Islands.
Mr Wong stated any plan to revive RIPEL plantations must come through RIPEL to get approval. Mr Wong also denied he has never been consulted on any issues relating to RIPEL operation in Russell Islands.
But the government sub committee for RIPEL insists that issues affecting the closure of the coconut industry, although complex, is a result of the industrial dispute and commercial disagreement between the workers and RIPEL.
Mr Patrick Wong is part of RIPEL and Levers Solomon Limited, LSL. Both entities have interests in Russell Islands controlling around 5% of the land and resources.
About 80 percent of Russell Island is customary owned with fewer individuals holding on to Perpetual Estate, PE, titles (aside from Mr. Wong) and is therefore available for development.
This 80% are the areas that the current investment program for Russell Islands under the RIPEL Cabinet sub committee is engaged with addressing.
The current reinvestment program coordinated through the RIPEL Cabinet sub committee is fully aware of the challenges surrounding land owned by Patrick Wong and RIPEL, hence the shift to ‘cross sectoral opportunities’ in development on areas that are not owned by Mr. Wong, RIPEL and LSL.
The setup of the Russel Islands Investment Forum (RIIF) is so far a positive engagement between the people of Russell Islands and Central province.
Under the MOU, the government recognises the developmental aspirations of the people of Russells and the positive leadership of the Central Islands provincial government.
The Lavukal Trust Board (LTB) is also an important stakeholder under this arrangement and its ongoing cooperation and willingness to work with the government is highly commended.
The Central Provincial Government position is to see LSL disclose its investment and infrastructure plans for the people of Russell’s with the Government initiative under RIIF.
The commonality of LSL and the government led initiative is to promote and advance investment opportunities in the Russell Islands for the benefit of the rural people.
The RIIF is to promote private sector growth within the rural populace. Provincial governments essentially have two fundamental core functions to discharge: - 1. Efficient and effective Delivery of services and 2. Creating the enabling environment for private sector growth in provinces.
The strategic ongoing support of provincial governments as agents of the national government, is premised upon these key functions.
Therefore, the governments ‘step by step’ approach to resolve such complex issues surrounding the closure of the coconut industry requires the cooperation and participation of all stakeholders.
In response to the Marulaon Communique and the 99 Rocks Strategy I & II, the issue of the former workers outstanding claim has been taken up by the Government.
Further an assessment into the RIPEL former workers claims has been completed for those that took part in the exercise. An announcement on this matter will be made once Cabinet has deliberated on the substance of the assessment.
Meanwhile, the consolidating of local entrepreneurs is underway as profiles will be finalised into a catalogue, based on cross-sectoral investment programs in preparation for the investor symposium in 2020.
“We are losing revenue that could otherwise support our domestic economy and only by helping ordinary people engage in commercial activities, we will turn the economic tide of development to our advantage,” the statement from the sub-committee said.
Mr Patrick Wong has been consulted several times before regarding RIPEL/LSL issues and the government is ready to engage accordingly, the statement concluded.