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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 23) – Solomon Islands businesses that registered under the Foreign Investment Act of 2005 will have to re-apply for certificate of registration.

This follows a landmark High Court ruling yesterday.

Justice Edwin Goldsborough had ruled in favor of submissions made by Attorney General Julian Moti that the commencement of the 2005 Foreign Investment Act was invalid and defective.

The Act was passed in November 2005, assented on December 16, 2005 and gazetted on February 2, 2007.

It was an act aimed at making Solomon Islands an easy place for foreigners, as well as locals, to invest.

Mr. Moti said based on his advice, Commerce minister Peter Shanel last Thursday revoked all previous notices of commencement and appointed October 19, 2007 as the new date of commencement.

This means that businesses that were registered under the Act since its commencement will have to apply again for new business licenses.

Justice Goldsborough also upheld Mr. Moti’s application to revoke an earlier court ruling that allows International Comtrade Shipping Limited to challenge a government decision to cancel its business license.

International Comtrade Shipping Limited is the foreign partner in the troubled Russell Islands Plantations Estate Limited.

Mr. Shanel in July cancelled International Comtrade Shipping Limited’s business license as a result of the long-running Russell Islands Plantations Estate Limited dispute.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR news files, the Russell Islands Plantations Estate was Solomon Islands leading producer of copra, coconut oil, and cocoa prior to ethnic tensions in the country in the late 1990s. The Russell Islands are located just northwest of Guadalcanal island where the capital city of Honiara is situated.]

Yesterday’s ruling means International Comtrade Shipping Limited will no longer be allowed to challenge the minister’s decision in court.

Instead, it will have to re-apply for a business license if it wants to retain its investment in Solomon Islands.

Mr. Moti told the court that he never said Mr. Shanel’s action to cancel International Comtrade Shipping Limited’s license was defective and invalid.

"What I wrote was that ‘the retrospective commencement of the Foreign Investment Act of 2005 was defective and invalid," Mr. Moti said.

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