The group was travelling there on board MV Fair Glory, which was on a schedule trip to the Western Province.
It was sent by RIPEL general manager, John Whiteside, to protect the company’s coconut plantations, which was allegedly harvested by workers and sold to other copra exporters.
The former workers, mostly
of Malaitan origin, went out in full force with knives, axes and other objects
to stop the ship from berthing at the wharf.
Police have to travel by
boat to the ship and five men in the group went out with them ashore to meet
with leaders of the former RIPEL workers.
Police inspector at
Yandina, Fakatonu confirmed to the Solomon Star yesterday after the meeting,
the workers refused to let the group stay at Yandina because of its connection
to Mr Whiteside.
“The workers did not like
to deal with any group involved with the former investor or John Whiteside.
“The workers look to the
Government to solve the issue and not any other group of people besides,”
Inspector Fakatonu said.
He said currently the group
was staying on Mariloan island in West Russells – much to the concern of the
former RIPEL workers.
“The situation is currently tense here because these former workers did not want to see the group at Yandina,” he said.
The group is made up of
some known Malaitan characters.
Mr Whiteside yesterday told
the Solomon Star the group was hired to protect the company’s properties which
people used them for their own gains.
He said no one has anything
to stop the company doing its business in Russells because they have the right
over the properties.
RIPEL’s operations in the Russells came to an abrupt halt after workers went on strike in 2003.
The event led to a long-drawn industrial dispute between the Solomon Islands National Union of Workers and RIPEL.
The company has since
unable to resume operations.
Chairman of RIPEL, Australian Patrick Wong had recently demanded the Government to pay his company damages worth millions of dollars.
The demand took him on a collision course with the Lilo government, which eventually led to the government banning him from entering the country.
By Eddie Osifelo
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