THE much awaited Gold Ridge Landowners royalties is close to being finalised by the Ministry of Mines and the Gold Ridge Landowners Council.
But in a statement on Tuesday, the chairman of the Gold Ridge Community and Landowners Council, Dick Douglas has called on the Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo to respect his people.
“I kindly call on the PM to demonstrate respect for my people by settling the misappropriation royalty funds,” Mr Douglas said.
“My people have been patient long enough and that truly demonstrates total respect to you and your government, therefore a kind gesture by way of paying our lost royalties would truly demonstrate your respect for our people,” he added.
The royalty payments that will be paid to 16 tribes as soon as the Gold Ridge Landowners Council agreed will only cover shipments 46-103 to be paid under the Mines and Minerals (Royalties) 2014 regulations.
Mr Douglas said that a long and vigorous calculations and negotiations between his council and Mines ministry could not confirm whether the government is willing to pay the misappropriated funds allegedly outside of the legal regulations.
“The anticipated payments will only cover shipments 46-103 under the 2014 Regulations, whilst the fate of shipments 6-45 under 2011 regulations remains questionable, yet to be decided by the cabinet,” Mr Douglas explained.
The former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Minerals, his financial controller and other staff have since been suspended for breaching financial and regulations safeguarding the royalty payments.
A special task force set up by the government after the alleged misappropriation summarised that that amongst other findings, the STF found that there were irregular royalty payments.
The STF therefore recommends that (a) the need to investigate how there was irregular royalty payments (b) that landowners convene a meeting in relation to whether there is a need for a new royalty distribution formula and (c) the need for SIG Gold Expanded Task force to resume its work.
“We have agreed on a new distribution formula and the cabinet has already gazette the regulation called Mines and Minerals (Royalties) Regulations 2014,” Mr Douglas confirmed.
The most irregular authorization employed by those responsible was making payments outside of the 2011 regulations, Mr Douglas added.
“The funds were supposed to be paid only to tribal nominated bank accounts, but the payments done were paid to individual and company accounts,” he said.
According to the STF Report, a total of $18,068,278.62 was paid out to certain landowning groups, individuals, dubious companies and the Guadalcanal province.
“We want the government to settle the misappropriated funds because it is the government that authorised the payments, therefore they are responsible to repay to tribes that never received their shares for shipments 6 – 45,” Mr Douglas said.
It’s understood that the reason for the classified payments according to different shipments was due to the fact that payments for shipments 6-45 have been misappropriated by the government.
Mr Douglas said that Central Guadalcanal is a naturally rich constituency with gold and other mineral deposits, logging and it also accommodates the country’s international airport.
The central constituency will also host the first large commercial Hydro which sets to kick off next year.
“If you can make the payments for 6-45 then my people can work together with any future government to continue injecting more funds into the local economy,” Mr Douglas said.