It is very interesting to read the article in Solomon Star issue No: 6636 on Tuesday 4 July 2017 from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).
The article titled “Truth about Waisis revealed” is full of errors and as a grass root man of Wairokai I wish to present the “Truth of the Truth about Waisisui Oil Palm Project”.
I support the Permanent Secretary, that the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock had carried out Land mobilisation after which registration were done by the Ministry of Land, Housing and Survey (MLHS) to five tribal lands, namely, Marapa Tribal Land, Suruniai TL, Ainapo TL, Torohane TL and Otenimae TL in Waisisi Oil Palm concession area.
Wairokai was never part of the land mobilisation process nor was it originally thought of as an out grower region for Waisisi Oil Palm Project.
To me Waisisi Oil Palm Project is a failed national project as the attention now is on Wairokai and less on Waisisi the original site.
The relocation of the nursery from the original land in Waisisi to Rapusia in Wairokai is a clear manifestation of the shift in mind set for the project.
Common sense will tell that once you reject an offer it means you do not favour the idea and no money can lure the interest.
I viewed the relocation as merely for convenience of the management team.
The use of the plot of land for the Oil Palm nursery is a personal offer by the owner of the teak plantation that was destroyed for the construction of the nursery (Mr. Sukahanikeni) and did not in any way represent Rapusia Tribe as indicated in the article.
The Land Tenure System in Are’Are, land is owned by the whole tribe not by individuals. So any development taking place must be a collective decision of the tribal members.
No mobilization was done with Rapusia Tribe in Wairokai so it is improper to claim that Rapusia Tribe have willingly offer land for Oil Palm development.
Just because the people of Waisisi and Wairokai are closely related it does not mean that land ownership in these communities is the same as customary land rights is according to the patrimonial system adopted in the Are’Are Land Tenure System.
Mr. Permanent Secretary, for your information Wairokai has been under a long outstanding land dispute, and in the absence of a traditional reconciliation between the rival groups, I would not encourage any development in the area at this point in time and this includes Wairokai-Waisisi Oil Palm Project.
Normally where there is a land dispute, it is wise to suspend all activities and allow concern parties to settle their differences amicably before development can continue.
Any national project development must unite the people not create disunity. The SMOGPA and the MAL Project Coordinator for Waisisi Oil Palm Project are well aware of the situation at Wairokai but played down the issue and has done nothing to make peace with the party concern.
The dispute had driven away land owners and now living in exile in Honiara and other places for the last decade as a result of criminal actions against them by the very leaders within SMOGPA spear heading the development of Waisisi Oil Palm Project.
This is an implicated wound that has become a history for Wairokai and would be a hurdle to overcome and if Wairokai-Waisisi Oil Palm Project is to be successful at Wairokai then there is need for humbleness by the instigators to face the situation on the ground and undo the wrongs they have done and let natural justice with peace prevail.
As for the 32 farmers selected for the field planting of the 9,000 overgrown seedlings in the nursery, it confirmed the confusion by Pastor Andrew Mahoro and hid people as all the selected farmers are in and around Wairokai area.
Likewise the landing of the machineries and tools at Wairokai port including the handing over ceremony, clearly indicated that Southern Maasina Oil Palm Growers Association and MAL have relocate the project as the name indicate Wairokai Oil Palm Project.
Come out clear and clean Mr. Permanent Secretary, the actions of your staff and the management committee you approved has been seen as contrary to MAL policy governing the establishment of Waisisi Oil Palm Project.
Wiaisisi have been used to lure annual budgets only for it to be expended elsewhere.
The nursery was established in 2014 and for those with knowledge in oil palm would agree that it would not be difficult task to transplant 3 years old nursery.
One thing it would need an Excavator to dig the seedlings out and lift them onto the tractor to transport to the field for planting.
The other thing is, in the absence of a road network how farmers would carry these heavy palms to the actual field for planting. Currently there is no road network at Wairokai and I am amazed on whose advice that the tractor and a motorcycle was send even before any feasibility studies for the road infrastructure is done.
I thought MAL has technical experts mandated to coordinate the national project but where is the wisdom.
Mr. Permanent Secretary, the 9,000 seedlings you’re mentioned are now palms and fruiting in the nursery. Come over and see for yourself and stop believing people with conflict of interest.
I learnt from the article that Southern Maasina Oil Palm Growers Association (SMOGPA) has been coordinating the development of Waisisi Oil Pam Project.
No wonder why there has been lack of development taking place as funding for the project has been paid through SMOGPA before the Association pay for services.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock must carefully re-consider the arrangement as it has been proved in effective and counterproductive.
So far I am yet to see tangible development besides the nursery despite the continuous annual budget support to the project.
I challenge the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock especially the confident Permanent Secretary to put on print media how much has government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock spent on Waisisi Oil Palm Project for Land Mobilisation, Machinery and equipment, tools, salary, casual payments in form Standing Imprest.
It would be interesting to note how much funds got syphoned and how much was actually spent on the national project.
Mark my word Mr Permanent Secretary as long as SMOGPA is in the Management helm of Waisis Oil Palm Project no tangible development would take place.
Since day one land owners have been assured that an overseas investor is coming soon. Now it is three years and I still hear the same assurance. Honesty is the right policy and we need true and honest answers. Why leave us in the darkness to speculate?
The enthusiasm about the national project is diminishing and I would not be surprised if there is abandonment of activities soon.
The question still remain, is it Waisisi or Wairokai Oil Palm Project?
I wish to conclude by requesting the Permanent Secretary of MAL, the Oil Palm Division of MAL, the Waisisi Project Coordinator and SMOGPA to arrange a meeting with Leaders of the five registered Tribal lands in Waisisi, the Leaders of Rapusia Tribal Land and Wairokai Community in Marahu village on a date to be determine by MAL.
This is purposely to hear from the horse’s mouth and assess the progress to date to justify the Government support to Waisisi Oil Palm Project.
By James Hutai