SOLOMONS POLICE TO INVESTIGATE MILL TAKEOVER

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp., Nov. 23) – Solomon Islands police left the capital of Honiara today for Yandina in the Russell Islands to investigate reports that striking workers have taken over some buildings at Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited (RIPEL).

Chairman of the RIPEL Board of Directors , Patrick Wong, yesterday criticized police for not responding to the situation.

The High Court last Thursday dismissed a Union and Workers application to set aside an earlier High Court Order, which declared the strike by RIPEL workers as illegal.

The General Manager of RIPEL, John Whiteside, says he was very concerned at the in-action of the police for not arresting people who have committed criminal activities at Yandina since the industrial dispute started earlier this year.

Mr Whiteside says the strikers yesterday took control of his residence and the company copra mill at Yandina and threatened his wife, telling her to leave Yandina within 48 hours.

He says reports from company field managers indicated that both Solomon Islands and RAMSI police were at the scene of gatherings by the strikers yesterday but made no attempts even to talk to them.

Mr Whiteside says the striking workers had in the past picketed and prevented loading of cocoa for export and have continued to carry out criminal activities while police took a neutral stand believing it to be an industrial dispute not a crime.

He says the continuing lawlessness and criminal activities at Yandina raises questions on whether law and order had returned to Solomon Islands, especially in Yandina.

Mr Whiteside has formally lodged complaints to the Special Coordinator of RAMSI, James Batley and the Commissioner of Police Mr William Morrell about the incidents.

November 24, 2004

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp.: www.sibconline.com.sb

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