This is a timely move on the part of the Ministry & the government.
While I am pleased that the Act is currently under review, I am disappointed about the process (or the lack of it) put in place for soliciting the views of the members of the public.
Recently a message from the Ministry of Forestry was put on the Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) page asking members to provide them with the contacts of executives of the FSII.
This would enable the Ministry to invite the executives to attend a consultation meeting for the review of the Act.
In relation to that, the question I wish to pose is why are only some sections or members of our society given the opportunity to make submissions?
Also as it stands I have not learned of any public consultation meetings on the review of the Act held in Honiara? Has it being held and it was only invitation basis?
This is a very important Act for the indigenous resource owners of Solomon Islands.
The Act serves not only as the guardian of their resources but it is important also for the benefit that they accrue from the harvesting of their resources.
Therefore it is of paramount importance that the views of all Solomon Islanders are heard. How do you do that?
It is only done by putting in place a process which is seen and perceived to be transparent and inclusive for the members of the public to submit their views to the Ministry of Forests.
At the moment communications within Solomon Islands has greatly improved. In the past, for similar tasks such as this, submissions could only be made in person at public meetings or via the post.
In today’s age, however, the internet has greatly improved communication in our urban areas and in a number of our Provinces.
As a result people also have access to the email as well to social media platforms such as facebook or twitter.
Therefore the Ministry should not make any excuse in not providing the opportunity for all Solomon Islanders, whether they are currently in Solomon Islands or living overseas, to make submissions on this important Act to the Ministry of Forests.
In conclusion I would suggest to the Minister of Forest and the Permanent Secretary that submission from the members of the public for the review of the Forest Resources & Timber Utilisation Act be made via the following avenue:
a) Public meetings in Provinces & urban areas;
b) Postal submission;
c) Email; and
d) Via social media platforms such as Facebook.
If submission for the review of the Act is restricted to only one section or some members of society then, to me, any views received by the Ministry of Forests will not be representative of all Solomon Islanders.
We must give all Solomon Islanders the opportunity to make their submission.