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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 20) – Solomon Islands Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza yesterday denied accusations that he granted a logging license to his Special Adviser, Robert Goh, to log the government-owned Santa Cruz Forestry Plantation in Temotu Province.

Temotu Province Deputy Speaker Gabriel Teao has alleged Kemakeza granted the lucrative logging concession to Progressive Resources Limited, a company controlled by Goh, when Kemakeza was Minister of Forestry some years back.

But Kemakeza said the accusations are false.

"I believe the particular license referred to was issued by Ezekiel Alebua when he was minister of forestry," Kemakeza said. "I never issued the license."

Mr Alebua could not be located yesterday for comment.

Teao, a former premier of Temotu Province, yesterday vowed that the province would not allow Mr Goh’s company to log the plantation.

"The plantation is now under the authority of the province. Any activities to do with the plantation should be decided on between the province and the landowners. Not somebody outside," he told the Solomon Star from Lata yesterday.

"The province," he said, "remains opposed to round log exports and will not succumb to business or political pressure to lift the ban imposed by Sir John Ini Lapli’s previous government. We will rally behind premier Johnson Levela in expelling anybody who tries to steal timber from plantation lands which were supposedly gifted back to us by the Ulufa’alu Government."

[PIR editor’s note: Temotu provincial lawmakers recently banned the export of logs from the province.]

He called for a Commission of Inquiry to look into how the license was given to Mr Goh.

Kemakeza said he had discussed the issue early this year with a delegation from the province.

"Following the meeting, I had requested a report from the Department of Lands and Forestry but the issue has been left at that because the matter has now been referred to the High Court. Until the court decides on the matter, the Government cannot do anything about it including the call for a Commission of Inquiry," Kemakeza said.

He said his Government still maintains the policy of giving back the state owned forestry plantations to the provincial governments, as decided by the former government of Bartholomew Ulufa’alu.

In this particular case, Kemakeza said, it is the logging license that has complicated matters.

Mr Goh was not available for comments yesterday, as he is still overseas.

July 20, 2005

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