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Leni built residence on Levers Solomons land

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Sept. 3, 2010) – In the Solomon Islands, police forcefully removed and arrested occupants of the property lost by former Member of Parliament Nollen Leni to Levers Solomons Limited (LSL), this week.

[PIR editor’s note: An earlier report states that the "Levers Solomon Ltd on 11 July 2006 issued Leni with a stop notice, to cease construction work when they learned that Leni was erecting a permanent building on a strip of land on the Lungga riverbank, east end of the bridge, without their approval."]

Police commissioner Peter Marshall said police acted on the court decision for Mr. Leni to vacate the property.

The former MP built the luxury home at the eastern end of the Lungga bridge, east of Honiara.

LSL took legal proceedings against the former MP on grounds that the land was theirs and no authority was granted for the MP to occupy the area.

Mr. Leni insisted that he acquired the land through proper and legal procedures from the Commissioner of Lands.

LSL insisted that they hold the fix term title of the land and the Commissioner of Lands does not own the land.

The High Court on 12 May this year ruled that the land belongs to LSL and ordered Mr. Leni to vacate the property and surrender it to LSL.

Mr. Leni refused saying he is an indigenous Guadalcanal person and can build wherever he wants to.

He launched an appeal against the court decision and last week, the Court of Appeal upheld the previous decision that the land belongs to LSL and that he must move out immediately.

Police and the High Court Sheriff visited the property last weekend during which Mr. Leni promised to move out early this week.

Mr. Leni did move out on Monday afternoon, but with all his properties locked up in the house and some security guards manning the area.

An eye witness said some LSL/ Russell Islands Plantations Estate Limited (RIPEL) men went to occupy the house on Tuesday but faced stiff resistance from the securities.

Police were called and on Wednesday forcefully removed the locks, taken away all belongings in the house to the police headquarters and arrested five people including Mr. Leni's son who were occupying the house.

The eye witness said there was rock throwing on Wednesday night at the property and another group approached the property yesterday but turned back.

Police commissioner Peter Marshall confirmed the action but could not identify whether Nollen Leni was among the five arrested.

"Police physically remove five people, arrested them and will face court.

"Police occupied that house at that time and we will continue keep an eye on the house.

"I believe there were some disturbances last night (Wednesday)."

Mr. Marshall said it’s the court decision and police are enforcing the law.

"If anyone attempts to interfere with the house or cause disturbance they will be arrested and charged.

"I ask people to exercise maturity in relation to that. We are interested to talk to stallholders around the Lungga bridge eastern end."

Meanwhile RIPEL General Manager John Whiteside said they are happy with efforts by police in ensuring the laws of this country are upheld.

"We are happy that police acted on the court order and removed the unlawful occupants.

"This attitude is concerning because it is not good for foreign investors. If Leni does not respect the court orders, then he does not respect the very laws of the Solomon Islands."

RIPEL Chairman Patrick Wong said: "I sincerely appreciate the Royal Solomon Islands Police swift and effective action on this occasion".

"LSL trust that the issue and all the questions regarding how are the rightful owners of Lungga land, is clear for all.

"If the law is applicable for a former Cabinet Minister, be assured, it is applicable for others."

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