CHIA Tai Enterprises Ltd logging company claimed the call to halt its logging operation on Abarafi tribal land is not right as an agreement was legally made between the company and the rightful landowner trustees.
The logging company made the statement in response to the so-called Abarafi Tribal Landowners Association Incorporation (ATLOAI)’s call to halt its logging operation on the said land.
ATLOAI spokesperson Mr. Faiga Wasi claimed Chia Tai Enterprises Ltd resumed logging operations with unknown trustees who have no legal capacity to represent the Abarafi landowners for the logging project.
But the company said it has nothing to do with the so call association as it only deals with the trustees which the company signed the agreement.
The logging operation was confined in the Abarafi Ano customary land only which is located between Kware River and Loma stream in West Kwara’ae of Malaita province as covered under Felling License No. TIM2/66 of Abarafi Development Company Limited.
The company said going back through the process, in 2017 they signed an agreement with the trustees from both the Abarafi Ano and Abarafi Langi group of people as one party to the agreement known as the Abarafi Customary Land trustees.
However, the agreement was not endorsed as the company knowing that though they are different and that the Felling License No. TIM2/66 of Abarafi Development Company Limited is covering only the Abarafi Ano customary land and not the Abarafi Langi customary land.
The Abarafi Langi group of people has later changed their mind not to join with the Abarafi Ano group people in the signed agreement due to numerous arguments of internal issues between both the Abarafi Ano and the Abarafi Langi.
The main argument comes amidst the idea of Abarafi Langi group to form an association where all the beneficiaries in terms of Royalties and so forth have to be pay through the association which was strongly opposed by the Abarafi Ano group people as they want to receive the royalties directly without going through the Association.
And since it was the Abarafi Langi group people choose to withdraw, the company has nothing much to say as it is their right to make their own decision,” said the company. Therefore, the company has later entered into a new agreement with only the Abarafi Ano Customary Land trustees and landowners which is endorsed accordingly.
Based on that argument, the Abarafi Langi group people decided to pull out and so in April 2018, the two who are now called the Abarafi Ano customary Land and Abarafi Langi Customary Land which have legally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated on 02nd April 2018 which clearly stated boundaries of the two lands of which only the Abarafi Ano customary land is allowed for the logging operation by the company.
A copy of the MOU sighted by the paper stated that the Ano is the occupier, proprietor, customary owner, beneficiary of land and all other resources of Abarafi Ano Customary Land covered under Felling License N0.TIM 2/66 of Abarafi Development Company Limited.
It also stated that “Langi is the occupier, proprietor, customary owner, beneficiary of land and all other resources of Abarafi Langi Customary Land which is outside of the Abarafi Ano Customary Land concession area covered under the Felling License No.TIM 2/66 of Abarafi Development Company Limited.”
Based on the MOU, the development plan shall be mainly restricted to the Abarafi Ano Customary Land concession area only which is legally understood and adapted by the parties after they have demarcated the land boundary including the prohibited (Tabu) sites.
“The sharing of royalties shall mainly for Abarafi Ano Customary land trustees and landowners only based on the legal aspect which determines the development plan on the said Abarafi Ano Customary Land concession area.
“There shall not be any extension of development plan over the Abarafi Langi Customary Land concession area where the Abarafi Langi customary land concession area is outside of the Abarafi Ano customary land concession area covered under the Felling License No. TIM 2/66.
“The Abarafi Langi hereby agreed and assures the Abarafi Ano that all the trustees’ representatives of the Abarafi Langi shall be completely withdrawn out without any hindrances and interference over the development plan carried within the said Abarafi Ano customary Land concession area covered under the Felling License No. TIM 2/66.
A copy of payment also sighted by the paper that the Abarafi Ano has paid the Abarafi Langi a token of appreciation with total amount of S8D33,000.00 (Thirty Three Thousand Solomon Dollars) for the trustees of Abarafi Langi during the process of consultation they had contributed in the development plan on Abarafi Ano Customary Land concession area.
The Abarafi Langi also agreed and assures the Abarafi Ano to undertake and carry out its full development plan in the said Abarafi Ano customary Land concession area without any hindrances and interference covered under the Felling License No. TIM 2/66.
Further to that, also sighted by the paper that both the Abarafi Langi and the Abarafi Ano had also signed a reconcile and assurance letter assuring the company from any land disputes during the landing and logging operations in Abarafi Ano Customary Land which to be harvested during the logging operations under the Felling license no. TlM2/66 of Abarafi Development Company Limited.
“So with this, you can clearly see that there’s no association we have dealt with as we only sign all the agreements with the trustees from the two parties (Abarafi Langi and Abarafi Ano) in the Supplementary agreement. “Therefore, the company have nothing to do with the Association because we have never signed any agreement with the Association.
On last month September, the company has received a copied letter of notice from the ATLAOI to the Commissioner of the Ministry of Forestry demanding them to cease what they describe as illegal logging operation on the Abarafi Customary Land which the letter was written by a Joseph Tiofiti who is currently attending studies in Papua New Guinea and he is well aware of all those earlier agreement since he had signed the MOU as well.
“And with the recent call by Mr. Wasi in the news published on 20th October 2020 is already another breach to the agreement which they have already agreed and assured not to make any disturbance to the operation,” said the company.
The company has already responded to the Commissioner of Forestry on 20th October 2020 with all the legal documents in response to the Show cause notice of suspension of felling license no. Tim2/66 of Abarafi Development Company Ltd issued on 13th October 2020.