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By Donaldson Rusa

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 18) – Makira landowners are suffering as the result of conservation, the Chairman of East Bauro Landowners Association in Solomon Islands Jerry Haga claims.

[PIR editor’s note: Makira is located just southeast of Guadalcanal island – where the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara is situated.]

He was referring to indigenous people from within the East and Central Bauro region.

Mr. Haga criticized the non-government organizations that have been promoting conservation, saying they (NGOs) have done nothing to benefit the people.

"The landowners have been suffering since the introduction of conservation initiatives some years back," he said. "The conservation organizations have not rendered a single benefit to our people."

Mr. Haga claimed that not until the logging operation started that the landowners began to see and realize the hidden benefits of commercial logging.

With regards to endemic species of birds and trees found in the area, the chairman said there’s no such finding recorded.

"We are not aware of any endemic species of birds and plants in our land," he said. "It’s a cover-up to prevent landowners from resorting to logging activities. We have not been informed about these rare species nor are we informed of the benefits we will receive from the conservation initiatives. Even these conservation organizations are cutting down trees from the conservation sites."

Mr. Haga criticized the conservation organizations for not conforming to their preaching about conservation, and accused them for spearheading the anti-logging public protest at Kirakira provincial headquarters last Thursday.

The chairman said there had been very little opposition since the company, CTP International, started operation. But now, it escalates.

"Our association is confused because all formalities have been completed. The company complies with the requirements and did not breach the country’s law, including the Forestry Act," he said.

He said there was no major opposition during the process, although initial disputes were resolved.

With regards to unfulfilled promises, he said the company did not make any promises. However, the association is taking note of the landowners’ concerns and needs, which were forwarded to the company for consideration.

Some of the conditions include the construction of permanent access roads that can be utilized when the company leaves.

Mr. Haga urged the protesters to stay away because they have no link to the concession area.

To the conservation organization, he said: "Leave us alone. If you have the means to assist the people in the concerned areas, just come along and work with the logging company to assist the people."

January 19, 2006

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