Asian Logging Firm Ignores Solomons Court Order, Lands In West Guadalcanal

Landowner complains about Richfield Timber Company setting up camp in Kokomu

By Lesley Sanga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 13, 2016) – An Asian logging firm notorious for its disregard for forestry laws has landed in west Guadalcanal, despite a High Court Order stopping them from doing so.

And it is refusing to pull out its machineries even though the court orders required them to do so.

Richfield Timber Company Limited landed at Kokomu seafront on 29 April 2016 with its machineries and set up its camp there.

They went there under the felling licence of Vungasilo Investment Limited, the local licensee.

This was two days after Justice Rex Foukona issued orders against them on 27 April not to enter the area.

“Totally unbelievable how this Asian company could come here despite court orders restraining them from doing so,” one landowner residing near the log-pond told the Solomon Star.

“The surprising thing is the police and forestry are unable to stop them from violating the High Court order,” the landowner added.

Richfield Timber, according to Company Haus records, was registered under the name of Simon Wetney, a local person who is also the sole shareholder and director.

But it was actually owned by Chinese-Malaysian Derrick Ngu, who also operates another logging company known as Ngu Brothers (SI) Ltd.

Initially, licensee Vungasilo Investment Limited signed a Technology and Marketing Agreement with another logging company called Ritetrade Pacific Limited.

But on 27 April 2009, and without the knowledge of Ritetrade, Vungasilo’s managing director Joseph Tausuli jumped fence and signed another technology agreement for the same concession with Richfield.

The decision took Ritetrade by surprise, forcing it to seek the High Court’s intervention.

“Obviously, what MrTausuli did was not only wrong, but also illegal,” one source familiar with the industry told the Solomon Star.

“When you have an existing technology and marketing agreement with one logger, you are not allowed to go and sign with another company for the same concession,” the source explained.

“If for some reasons a licensee wanted to do that, he must first let the other party know.

“In doing that the other party’s expenses must be paid and cleared first before the licensee can be released and partner with a new company.

“Failing to do that, such as in this case of Vungasilo Investment and Richfield, would be a violation of the Forest Regulation 2007.”

In the orders Justice Foukona issued:

  • Richfield Timber Company Limited, and its local licensee Vungasilo Investment Limited, are restraint from entering the area, carrying out logging activities, or felling any trees of economic value in the concession area.
  • Restraint from landing their machineries, equipment, or constructing any road within the area.
  • Should Richfield and Vungasilo already landed their machineries or equipment before the orders were made, they must remove them from the site.

On 25 May 2016, Commissioner of Forests Reeves Moveni wrote to Mr Tausuli, informing him that the technology arrangement between his company and Richfield has been revoked.

The decision, Mr Moveni explained, was made in light of the court orders Ritetrade obtained against Richfield.

But despite the court orders and the revocation of the technology agreement, Richfield and Vungasilo continue to occupy Kokomu log-pond, set up camp, build a wharf, and had so far constructed a one and half kilometer road inland.

Attempts to obtain comments from Mr Tausuli and Richfield for this story have proven futile.

Solomon Star
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