Temotu Premier Reportedly Bribed By Logger In Solomons

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Beu insists province will not allow logging on Vanikoro island

By Charley Piringi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 24, 2013) – A Malaysian logger gave SBD$3,000 [US$407.40] in a yellow envelope to the premier of Temotu in an attempt to do logging in the Solomon Islands province, according to Premier Fr. Brown Beu, who revealed this to the Solomon Star.

He said the logger, Mr. Liong, director of Jaya Berjaya Company, gave him the envelope as he was preparing to board the plane back to Lata, Saturday.

"When I opened the envelope in the presence of some of my executives and landowners, I saw a letter and SBD$3,000 cash," Mr. Beu said.

Fr. Beu said the letter was from the Ministry of Forestry, and it gave Jaya Berjaya the permission to enter Temotu, but must not do any logging.

The premier said the yellow envelope came as an attempt by the company to enter Temotu and do logging on Vanikoro island.

Fr. Beu said his executives have opposed the proposed operations based on landowner opposition to logging.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Solomon Star reports that both Transparency Solomon Islands and the Joint Civil Society Groups & Concerned Citizens have lauded Beu for exposing corruption and rejecting the alleged bribe. The latter, in addition, has called on the premier to report and turn over bribe monies to the police.]

But he said the Malaysian was trying to enter Temotu through a local, John Nabu, who possesses a logging licence.

Fr. Beu and some of his executive were in Honiara last week.

He said logger Mr. Liong attempted to meet him last Friday but the meeting could not take place.

"While I was waiting on Saturday to board my plane, he called and wanted to meet me at the airport. After our short meeting, he handed me that yellow envelop and beg me to allow his company to operate on Vanikoro. But I told him we’ve already made our decision that there’ll be no logging on Vanikoro," Fr. Beu said.

He said the money is being kept in his office. Fr. Beu said in fact the Malaysian loggers arrived at Lata with logging machineries, Friday.

"They came with a letter from the Ministry of Forestry that has no stamp and asked as to allow them to move to Vanikoro to start their operation.

"We’ve already made our decision and told them to turn back to Honiara.

"But instead, they defied our orders and went on to Vanikoro."

Forestry director (Operation) Kevin Alu, who wrote the letter that was handed to premier Beu, Saturday, confirmed writing the letter.

He said this was done at the behest of the Commissioner of Forestry.

"The letter was merely asking the province to give permission to the company to land in the province, but not to do any operations," Mr. Alu explained.

"Any decision on whether to operate on the land is a matter between the company and landowners, and provincial leaders," Mr. Alu added.

Temotu Provincial member Stanley Tehi told the Solomon Star the situation at Vanikoro between landowners was tense.

"The landowning tribes are divided on the issues, and there were threats from those opposing the operation to burn down logging machines should the operation goes ahead," Mr. Tehi said. He added police are doing their best to calm the situation down.

Mr. Tehi said licence holder John Nabu was the local behind the operation.

"This is not the first time for his to make such deal with the Malaysian. He came up with similar controversial arrangements in the past. I called on him to reconsider his actions," Mr. Tehi said.

Mr. Nabu could not be reached for comment.

Premier Beu said his executive is currently dealing with the issue to ensure it does not escalate into lawlessness.

Logging has been banned in Temotu since the 1990s when former Governor General Sir John Ini Lapli was premier.

Vanikoro is one of the outer islands in the Temotu group.

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