Logging Equipment Damaged By Solomon Islands Landowners

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Vanikoro Island residents allegedly attacked logging camp

By Elliot Dawea and Trixie Carter

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 8, 2014) – Lata police are after an Anglican priest who allegedly led a group of landowners on Vanikoro Island in Temotu Province, Solomon Islands, to damage logging machineries on Boxing Day.

Fr Patterson Nibeo reportedly led five other men to attack the logging camp 26 December 2013, which police say resulted in damages worth SBD$1.1 million [US$160,516].

Temotu Provincial Police Commander Alfred Uiga told the Solomon Star one person was already arrested, while others are still at large.

"We will return to day to get the other suspects from the island," Mr Uiga said.

Temotu premier Fr Brown Beu said the alleged action of the landowners was unfortunate.

He said Late police dispatched its officers to the island after they received reports of damages done to logging machineries.

[PIR editor's note: Radio New Zealand International reports that Beu expressed disappointment that landowners had taken the law into their own hands, which will complicate efforts to ensure logging is stopped.]

"On arrival at Vanikoro, the officers confirmed the report to be true and have identified an Anglican priest to be behind the attack.

It’s understood the machineries were owned by an Asian logging company, Jaya Berjaya Ltd, engaged by the local licence holder Galigo Resource Company Ltd.

The company landed with its machineries on the island in October last year, but was met with stiff opposition from other landowning groups.

Although it set up camp, it was unable to do any logging because it has not met other requirements under the Forestry Act.

The Commissioner of Forest has since suspended the company’s licence because of its failure to meet the requirements.

Temotu Province has also refused to grant a business licence to the company.

In a report Lata police compiled on the Boxing Day incident, it said the landowners went to the logging camp armed with knives, bows, and arrows.

The report said those hired to look after the machineries fled into the bush when the group arrived at the camp, leaving them to cause damages to the machines.

The report stated machines and equipment damaged include:

The report said the incident occurred during broad daylight and Fr Nibeo was seen encouraging his group to cause the damages.

Premier Beu, who staunchly opposed the proposed logging operation from the start, said if the landowners have broken the law, they must face justice.

Mr Uiga called on people in the province not to take the law into their own hands.

He added the cost of the damages is likely to increase because assessment is still continuing.

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