LANDOWNERS of the Ro’ole Land, East Fataleka in Malaita province are left with no options but to start milling logs that were harvested for export as part of the Evita Agricultural development planned for the area.
Reports received by the Solomon Star yesterday said, close to 4000 cubic metres of logs worth nearly SBD$4million dollars in June that were due to be shipped out in mid-July has now started to be milled.
“Ro’ole landowners are no longer prepared to keep waiting for the Commissioner of Forestry Reeves Moveni to give the order to ship the logs as promised since late July.
“We as resource owners are losing money, our project has lost money, and even the government has lost its tax money too,” chairman of Ro’ole Trust Board Alan Siau confirmed.
The chairman added, the mitigating losses and getting some value for the harvested logs is their primary focus especially given no income from wages has been paid into the area since early July after the Ministry of Forestry interfered in the operation and Evita had to make 42 persons redundant.
“We invited Evita here to work on our lands. All the good work that was being done and employment has stopped now thanks to the government’s actions and they are not being prepared to even look into our case.
“Repeatedly meetings where asked for and ignored. If we do not mill the logs we will even lose them too,” Mr Siau added.
Evita Solomon Acting General Manager Mr Aaron Cassar has stated the company, which is in voluntary administration, has suffered significant losses as a result of the discrimination levied at the company with the withholding of its exemption.
To date no formal reply has ever been received as to why this was being done.
The further cancelling of its Gazetted Exemption issued in 2012 from the previous government is a further blow to the company that cannot now even resume operations in other gazetted lands.
“Basically, as a genuine investor in the Solomon Islands Evita has been told to get out.
“On September 2nd 2015 we were issued a notice giving us 7 days to leave East Fataleka with all machinery, equipment and staff.
“In effect we have been issued an eviction notice with no consultation between ourselves and our partnered land owners in particular the Ro’ole, Kwasa and Burara Tribal Land Trust Boards,” Mr Cassar said.
“Milling old logs is not going to generate the same value as if we had exported the logs before the decline in log pricing started in July.
“In letters I issued to the Ministry of Forestry and the PM’s Office I clearly gave an outline of how funds would be used from the export of logs to further support the development of East Fataleka.
‘Outlining monies from the sale would go to a jointly managed bank account with the Ro’ole Trust Board.
“Over SBD1million was to be allocated from the sale of harvested logs, all to be used as part of the development of the first 50 ha of Cocoa Plantation and 5 ha of commercial organic farming in the area,” the acting GM told the Solomon Star.
Mr Cassar said, the cancelling of all Agro Forestry licenses by the Ministry of Forestry on August 30th, 2015 with no consultations with landowners and investors in particular in the case of Evita Solomon and East Fataleka is a failure in supporting genuine investment into Solomon Islands to develop commercial farming opportunities.
Meanwhile, attempts to get comments from the Ministry of Forestry and Research concerning the issue of Evita Solomon Ltd have proved unsuccessful yesterday.
Solomon Star will sought comments from the ministry again today.
By RONALD TOITO’ONA