IN a move to kick off talks and negotiations to reopen Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited (RIPEL), the Lavukal Trust Board (LTB) and the Lavukal House of Chiefs and Elders met with the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
The meeting was to enable the parties to provide updates to the Prime Minister on the developments and issues that concerns the LTB and indigenous people of Russell Islands.
LTB Chairman Oliver Salopuka said by presenting their side of the story, the LTB and indigenous Russell islanders will then participate in any meaningful discussions useful for the DCC government’s efforts to address the long-standing RIPEL issue of reopening the vast estate.
The LTB and the chiefs also used the occasion to provide the Prime Minister a set of conditions necessary for the government to undertake before further dialogue on the reopening of the estate.
The Prime Minister assured the LTC and landowning chiefs that most of the conditions that they raised were ‘not unreasonable’ demands.
However, he said there are some issues that are essentially corporate decisions that will require the government and other stakeholders of RIPEL to further deliberate on.
Hon Sogavare said his office has already received submission from the RIPEL management and the government will be also holding further discussions with other parties of RIPEL in the immediate future.
He said the government has already set up a RIPEL Taskforce and will embark on a strategic approach to the RIPEL industrial dispute.
The Prime Minister thanked the LTB and the chiefs for their willingness to approach the government on this national issue and assured them that it is his governments’ intention to redevelop RIPEL but not at the expense of the indigenous landowners.
He said he is optimistic that the government will have move to address some of the underlying issues on reopening RIPEL by the end of 2015.
The RIPEL industrial dispute started in 2004 when the defunct Solomon Islands National Union of Workers (SINEW) staged an industrial strike action that sees the ceasing of the operations of the estate.