IT may look easy in the paper, but gathering information especially facing leaders who have something to hide is not an easy task.
I was tipped by a landowner from Isabel whose land was logged of the endangered and prohibited tree species – Tubi by a Taiwanese company South Pacific Wood Co Ltd (SPW).
I was curious and was eager to talk personally to the SPW boss Mr Lao.
We drove to his area and this was our encounter.
Me: Excuse me, mind if we can talk about the Tubi issue that you have extracted?
Mr La: I cannot talk about this, see we are the only company authorised by the Ministry of forests to do tubi export.
“He winded up his car window glass and drove off.
“With very little information to work on the story, I followed him to his office.
At the SPW office in Ranadi, no sign board to indicate that this was a company, only pieces of roofing iron raised some five meters high all around the Building.
I excused and explained myself to a security officer, a local Solomon Islander looking out from a hole through a broken roofing iron gate.
Me: Excuse me officer, I am from the Solomon Star, can I speak to Mr Lao?
Officer: He is too busy.
Me: Can I come in and talk to him for a munite?
Officer: No, he’s too busy.
Me: Any telephone number?
“A Land line telephone number was given after waiting there for almost half an hours in the scorching heat.
But when contacted after that, a response would be “he is not in”.
The Ministry of environment Director Joe Horokou was contacted.
Me: So your Ministry did approved the exporting of Tubi, and which companies were approved to do that?
Joe: We have lots of applications here, but no firms were approved to do exporting yet. You can also talk with the Forest commissioner about this”.
A good time and effort has been wasted on 2 weeks phone calls to make appointment with the office of forest Commissioner Reeves Moveni who was said to be always away from his office.
Many more calls remained unanswered. It even leads up to my visit to the forests office in Lengakiki, last week only to be turned back by forests officers saying he was away.
I make another call to the commissioner the following day and I was answered.
Me: I am a reporter from the Solomon star. I am following up on the Tubi Issue. Why did that company extracted the resource for export while there were no firms yet allowed to do so?
Moveni: I cannot comment on that. Might be the Permanent secretary Mr Barnabas Anga has something to say on that issue”.
The PS Mr Anga was immediately contacted but, then he referred me back to the commissioner, whose phone did not answer the phone again.
With my slow investigation, I finally have some evidence information I am looking for.
This week, I again kept calling the commissioner’s office again, switchboard was not answered, and other telephone lines within that office were also not answered.
“I decided to pay a visit.
“I knocked at the commissioner’s door office yesterday morning.
Me: Good Morning, I am a reporter from the Solomon star.
While I was still trying to complete my introduction, a woman who is the commissioner’s secretary interrupted.
Secretary: He will not comment on that issue…….Go upstairs to see the PS Mr Anga. He was the right person to talk to about the issue…..
I walked upstairs to see the PS.
Me: Good Morning, I am a reporter from the Solomon Star, see for the past 2 or so weeks I have been trying to make appointments with any of the PS or the Commissioner but I didn’t get through.
Secretary: See we were all away in a meeting yesterday……but….What specific issue were you after?
Me: Tubi issue…..hope you know that.
Secretary: the Forest Commissioner is the right person to give information on that issue. Go back to him downstairs.
Again I popped into the Commissioner’s office.
Me: I came back here as the PS office referred me back here to talk with the commissioner.
Secretary: He is here but you cannot talk to him; and that is final!
Me: See this is very urgent; I need to talk to him about the tubi issue, we have documents that he signed an export permit for the SPW Company on 13th of this month.
Secretary: No you cannot talk to him. This is final! He will not speak to you!
I returned to the office and thought I would just pay him a final visit through a phone call incase he changed his mind.
The secretary answered the phone and told me off again and slammed the phone.
Customs comptroller Mr Nathan Kama when questioned why they allow the export to be made said he wasn’t aware of the tubi export done.
“Probably there would be export made but I am not aware of it”.
Southern Wood Company Ltd was registered in 24 July 2012 under a private company name
SOUTHERN PACIFIC WOOD TRADING COMPANY LIMITED with the company number 201211048.
The logger Mr Lao uses the name of his wife a Solomon Islands local to register his company.
That ordeal showed just how difficult it can be for leaders to stand up and be responsible for their actions by explaining to the public.
Could this be a sign that corruption deeply rooted in the fabrics of our society and no one wants to take the responsibility? Whatever reasons these leaders rigidly refused to face the media for, we have given them repeated opportunities to inform and explain to the public questions surrounding the issue.
By CHARLEY PIRINGI