FORUM Solomon Islands International (FSII) has dismissed accusations by veteran journalist and former MP Alfred Sasako that FSII is chasing away potential investors.
The group was responding to Mr Sasako’s private column in the Solomon Star and Island Sun newspapers yesterday.
The statement said Sasako’s claim that FSII members led by its Chief Executive Officer, Benjamin Afuga have falsely accused and chased away an investor, Evita Solomon Limited, a consortium supported by the PM and NCRA government to operate Agro Business Development in Malaita, is totally misleading.
Speaking on behalf of the group, President Redley Raramo said, what FSII did was the right thing government authorities should be doing to all intending investors.
“FSII members themselves using the internet searched and uncovered some interesting things about the background of this company and certain individuals who are shareholders of the Evita Solomon Limited,” Mr Raramo said.
“It is a normal thing for the Foreign Investment Board, immigration, Labour, Police and other government departments to scrutinise foreigners, who intend to do business in this country, but it was somehow skewed in the case of Evita.
“What our members did was what the government should have done before granting licences, permits, get registered and sign agreements with resource owners.
“It is the sole responsibility of the government to check the background of investors, especially so-called consortiums talking about investing millions of dollars, accompanied by huge promises.
“They must be scrutinised. Unfortunately government failed its obligations many times; therefore everyone should appreciate FSII’s complimentary efforts.
“This country has experienced lots of failed investments and witnessed greedy investors running away from the country after milking millions of dollars from our resources, living resource owners high and dry. Do we want to repeat the past or do we want to improve and enjoy maximum benefits?”
Mr Raramo said by now Solomon Islands should have seen and felt the presence of million dollar landowning companies, but sad to say, there is none in this country. Why?
“FSII has no preferences on who should invest in this country as long as he, she or they are clean and genuine, because dealing with the wrong people is costly and will always live us high and dry.”
The FSII boss renewed his call earlier call for resource owners to be vigilant and not to rush into signing any agreements with investors.
Mr Raramo said while it cannot be denied that the country needs more tangible development to prop up its economy, resource owners must not be misled into signing agreements without knowing their contents in their entirety.
He also clarified that FSII is not an investment consultancy firm or will ever engage in investment opportunities or even to identify one because it will be against its objectives.
“We will never involve in deciding who supposed to invest here because we have provincial, national leaders, chiefs and tribal leader/members that are mandated to serve and safeguard their people and their resources.”
Besides, Mr Raramo said there are laws that stipulate conditions hence anyone wanting to conduct business in this country must comply with our laws, regardless of who you are or how rich or poor you are.
“Our vision is a proactive movement with a solid foundation and a passion, advocating for positive change at all levels of governance across all sectors within the Solomon Islands.
“Our warning is NOT specifically targeted at the good landowners of Fataleka and Evita Solomon Limited but for all Solomon Islanders and resource owners in this country and any other investor who may want to sidestep the laws or this land.
“My advice for any dubious and deceitful investor aiming to invest in this country is to stay out because you will be scrutinised and exposed,” he added.
On the question why Sasako accused FSII, the president said, Mr Sasako got it all wrong by relying on the discussions on FSII Facebook page.
He said members who participated in the heated debates did that in their individual capacity as members of the forum.
“The page provides a podium for free expression of one’s views, opinions, ideas, argument, questions and suggestions and does not necessarily represent FSII’s position.
“All FSII resolutions are endorsed by FSII Management (after careful assessment) and usually come out in a form of a press statement in the local and international media.”
Mr Raramo said Solomon Islands is the last frontier because much of its natural resources are still untapped, therefore “we will be attracted to many investors, some good, some not, therefore as a concerned citizens group, we will continue to advocate against the not good ones”.