SOLOMONS PLANTATION ASKS TOP DOLLAR FOR

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PROPERTY
Former workers stunned by prices on their homes

By Moffat Mamu HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, April 19, 2010) - FORMER Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited (RIPEL) workers have been offered [an opportunity to buy the houses and property they currently live in at Lunga] for $200, 000 [US$24,000] to $300, 000 [US$36,000].

This is one of the options RIPEL has given to its ex-RIPEL workers who have been occupying the Levers Solomons Limited (LSL) property for the past 6 six years.

A reliable source said towards the end of 2008 the ex-RIPEL workers were given three options, one to rent the property, second to purchase it and third to vacate the property.

But most of them went for the second option.

And the offer was between $200, 000 to $320, 000 depending on the size of the land and the house.

Currently between 15 and 20 former RIPEL workers are still occupying Levers Solomons Limited (LSL) properties at Lunga, east Honiara.

[PIR editor’s note: Levers Solomons Ltd. is a partnership between British conglomerate Unilever – formerly Lever Brothers – and the Solomon Islands government, with the government owning 40 percent of shares.]

Most of the workers remained on the properties since the strike action in June 2004.

The source said RIPEL is charging about $180 [US$22] and more per square metre for the land and the price goes up when it included the houses.

It was revealed that ex-workers were shocked with the price of the properties given the years they remained unemployed.

The workers have been advised to pay 30 per cent of the total amount as deposit for the property which included land and houses.

RIPEL had engaged surveyors and valuers to measure the houses and plot of land. It also engaged two sales agents who have been offered commission for selling the RIPEL properties.

Most of the workers are reportedly stunned, disappointed and confused over the offer.

But speaking to Solomon Star RIPEL Chairman Patrick Wong said Lever Solomons Limited (LSL) owns the land and the house.

"RIPEL runs and operate the business but does not own the Land," he said. "LSL & RIPEL are two separate companies, under the Companies Act and are separate entities," he said.

Mr Wong confirmed that in 2008 an offer was made for the ex-RIPEL workers but none of the workers paid up.

He added that the offer was also made to ex-Commodities Export Marketing Authority (CEMA) to buy the land only, as house was built and pay for by CEMA.

As for the survey, he said land is sold on per square metre.

"The survey is completed and the Lands department have measured all blocks and advised how many square meters for each and every block.

"LSL have received valuation for vacant land and LSL have received the lowest valuation at $180 per square meter and have also received and seen valuation closer to $ 300-400 per square meter," Mr Wong said.

He confirmed that houses and land would be around $ 200,000 - $ 300,000 depending on which house and size of land.

He explained that based upon $180 per square-metre, this value is: $ 126,000-00

Mr Wong said they placed a value on the house of $ 1,500 for the house.

"For example if a house is say 80 square metres, then the house will be worth $ 120,000-00.

"So together we get $ 126,000.00 plus $120,0000.00 and the grand total would be $246,000-00," he said.

The Chairman said some houses maybe cheaper due to its condition or size.

"Some house as small as 30-50 square meters and some land are smaller than 700 square meters. But some are larger.

"Then we must also take into consideration the free rent for all these 5-8 years," he said.

Mr Wong said they want people occupying the properties to come forward, sign a deal and started paying.

He said the reason to take such action is to get those who are doing nothing out of the property.

"We have people who are doing nothing all these years and these type of people deserve to be evicted, after 8 years on the property," he said.

He said there are people who have paid alot of money for properties at Lunga.

"If those ex-workers are prepared to buy they will be entitled to a copy of this valuation.

"Bottom line is, if those ex-RIPEL workers wants to buy from LSL, they should come forward with their money.

"If the purchase option is dropped then it comes back to either the option of renting or vacating the property," Mr Wong said.

The RIPEL chairman said they will soon start legal action against ex CEMA workers residing on LSL Land.

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