ABARAFI Tribal Landowners Association Incorporation wants logging company Chia Tai Enterprises Solomon Islands to halt its logging operation on Abarafi tribal land.
The call came after license holder Ishmael Lalifu and Chia Tai Enterprises allegedly changed the original agreement with the landowners and entered what the landowners described as a “dubious agreement” with another group called Abarafi Ano Trustees.
Abarafi Tribal Landowners Association (ATLOAI) spokesperson Faiga Wasi claimed Chia Tai Enterprises resumed logging operations with unknown trustees who have no legal capacity to represent Abarafi landowners for the logging project.
Mr. Wasi said ATLOAI is the only legitimate trustee to represent the whole Abarafi Tribe after it signed a supplementary Standard Logging Agreement to permit Chia Tai to do logging on Abarafi land.
He said this very agreement was changed by Chia Tai and Mr Lalifu and not ATLOAI which gave way for the logging operation on Abarafi land.
He said logging operations have started on Abarafi customary land in September this year and is ongoing to this day.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wasi said although ATLOAI had issued legal notice for the company to stop operations, the company continued, an action which the landowners described as a slap on the face of the real resource owners.
Therefore, he called on Mr. Lalifu and Chia Tai to do the right thing by halting all logging operations on Abarafi land and stop all log shipments from leaving the shores of Malaita.
He said the real Abarafi people wanted to see justice and fairness when dealing with their natural resources on the land that belongs to them.
He said Mr. Lalifu got support from Hanomola Tribe in Kwaio, Asanao tribe in Fataleka, and Bakwa Tribe who are not Abarafi people to gain support to continue with the logging operation.
Mr. Wasi insisted that the process was hijacked and justice is needed for the genuine Abarafi people.
Since the operation, over 350 logs were transported to the coast of West Fataleka awaiting shipment overseas.
Mr. Wasi is calling on Malaita Provincial Government to step in to rescue the situation to stop a further conflict between the parties involved.
He also called on the Ministry of Forestry to cancel the Chia Tai operation as it did not operate according to the expectation of ATLOAI.
According to information sighted by this paper, ATLOAI issued a legal notice to the Director of the logging company Mr. Wong Pak Cheng in September this year regarding the matter at hand.
This paper also sighted a notice for suspension of fell license No:Tim2/66-Abarafi Development Company Limited issued by the Ministry of Forestry dated 13-10-2020.
The license holder is expected to respond to the notice issued by the ministry within the next 14 days to explain why the felling license Tim2/66 should not be suspended.
ATLOAI advises the following four points for the current logging operation to consider in the issued letter, “that you immediately ceased or suspend any logging operation on Abarafi customary land within the concession area on Abarafi Ano, unless and until such operation is consented by the ATLOAI.
“You and Abarafi Development Company are to rescind, revoke or nullify any contracts agreement, MOU, MOA, you signed with the unknown trustees for the logging operation forthwith.
“You shall call the ATLOAI trust board and the house of elders for an urgent meeting to decide on the logging operation whether to continue with the logging project on Abarafi customary land.
“If condition 3 is in the affirmative, you must enter into a new Supplementary Agreement with the association trust board or any trustees endorsed by the association to act for and on behalf of the Abarafi landowners.”
The logging company has not complied with the issued notice to this day which irritates the genuine landowners of Abarafi land.
A letter from the Solicitor dated 16 October title, “Notice of suspension of felling license No.Tim 2/66-Abarafi Development Company,” was also issued to the logging company to halt its operation.
With that, Mr. Wasi who comes from Kwaitaka’s line who is an original Abarafi man said they want to see justice prevail so that the real Abarafi people benefited from the resources that rightly belong to them and not for other people to benefit like what is currently happening.
By WILSON SAENI
Auki News Bureau