FORMER Special Secretary to Prime Minister, Dr Philip Tagini has refuted claims by Malaita Ma’asina Forum (MMF) that he withheld the report of the $18 million scandal on Gold Ridge.
MMF general secretary, Charles Ashley this week called on Tagini and DCC’s newly appointed SSPM, Rence Sore to reveal the beneficiaries of the royalty payments and people behind it.
This came after the Gold Ridge landowners accused Mr Sore as the main suspect in the scandal, when DCC appointed him as the SSPM.
Mr Tagini was then chairman of the Special Task Force established by Cabinet in July 2013.
The STF was set up to investigate the scandal, following complaint raised by representatives of the Gold Ridge Community Landowners Council (GRCLC) about the way royalties had been processed by government and also how these had been distributed by tribal trustees and representatives.
Tagini said the findings of the investigation had been provided to Cabinet, to the Guadalcanal Province, GRCLC, and to government stakeholders.
He said the question to disclose the report to the public is a different issue which Cabinet has the power to do it.
“It is inappropriate for me to disclose those details without the express instruction of Cabinet,” he said.
“The last government decided to refer the matter to the Police for investigation.
“I am aware of investigations being carried out by police but to this day, I do not know whether charges had been laid,” he said.
Mr Tagini believes that since the allegations have been referred to the Police, it is for the Police to complete their investigation and take whatever course of action is appropriate at that point.
“Anyone facing Police investigations relating to allegations of criminal liability should have the first opportunity to respond to that investigation,” he said.
“This ensures that the right of the accused to defend themselves against allegations is also protected.
“Publishing the details of such allegations prior to the conclusion of a Police investigation undermines the rights of those alleged of wrongdoing to defend themselves in a court of law should the police decide to lay charges,” the lawyer said.
Tagini said any information about how the trustees used the funds after they were withdrawn are clearly outside the STF’s terms of reference and beyond the STF’s abilities.
“Such matters are also a matter for the police to investigate and if necessary, lay charges,” he said.
However, Tagini wish to register his total agreement with the MMF’s call to pay landowners all royalties that are due to them.
He said the formula for payment of royalties is set out in the Mines and Minerals (Royalties) Regulations 2011 but since then, the landowners have internal disagreements about this formula and have been asked to agree on a new formula.
“I understand that this matter has been agreed upon and should be used for the payment of any outstanding royalties still retained by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands.
“These outstanding royalties must be treated as part of the discussions going forward towards solutions for the future of the Gold Ridge mine project,” he said.
Tagini was tipped to head one of the political departments in the Prime Minister Office, which he is not aware of.
By EDDIE OSIFELO