Solomons loggers call for government to act on its reforms
An organisation representing logging companies in Solomon Islands has condemned a recent high court decision allowing the export of illegally harvested logs.
An organisation representing logging companies in Solomon Islands is calling for a fair implementation of governments reform policies.
The call comes after a spate of events affecting the industry including the sacking of controversial forestry minister Bodo Dettke, the revoking of 30 agro-forestry business licenses due to abuse by logging companies and a recent court ruling which released an impounded shipment of illegally harvested round logs for export.
The president of the Solomon Forest Association, Johnny Sy told Koroi Hawkins he has been trying to work with government to clean up the logging industry but says the latest court ruling could undo any progress made so far.
JOHNNY SY: SFA always supports what the government is doing like especially the revocation of this agro-forestry plus the forming of these people all some of the industry are doing illegal logging yeah.
KOROI HAWKINS: And I understand you are trying to organise a public forum to discuss some of this has that happened already?
JS: It's already done yesterday.
KH: And what were some of the views to come out of that?
JS: The same thing that what the government wants we just have to follow it up. Because as of this time we had a lot of things that we negotiated with the government like the policy that they are doing but it is not implemented.
KH: Yes and what kind of issues are we talking about if you can go through some of the issues?
JS: I think it is only about the agro-forestry because agro-forestry is supposed to be for agricultural purposes but they use to export these kind of logs.
KH: Yes and they have revoked those permits but they are reviewing them. So there is a possibility that they could actually be reinstated.
JS: Oh yea we don't have a problem about those things that is supported by the SFA we always mention to the public that we are not here stop all these things for the rural people. The only thing we are against on that one is that they are using those things for illegalities. Like using the agro-forest (license) but they never plant. So what does agro-forest mean? Is it logging or is it agro-forestry?
KH: Yes, so they are taking the trees but then they are not following up with the plantations of whatever were initially in the application is that right?
JS: Yes that is right. That is why we are talking about those things. Because actually we really want to support agro-forestry if they really want to follow the regulations. Like first of all agro-foresty means you have to plant, you clear the land and you plant for the agriculture of these people, for the rural people. So that when the logging time is finished then we have something left over for the Landowners. But they never did. Some of them yes that is why it is up for review. This means most of them that have not done anything they will be totally revoked. Then all the people who have done what is in the regulation or the policy or their application then we will support them to follow it up.
KH: What about the recent change or reshuffling of the ministerial portfolio's what is the SFA's view on that?
SY: We don't have anything to say on that we always emphasise that we can work with any government of the day. Which means to say that any minister who comes in as long as they are doing their job, we don't have any problem with that one.
KH: And what about the revelations or accusations or allegations by the outgoing forestry minister Bodo (Dettke) about, about 500 million Solomon Dollars of in unpaid taxes. Is that something SFA is aware of or is calling on government to investigate?
SY: We are not aware of that one but there is a rumour coming out about that. But we already came out in the media saying that we will support and we want that guy and that company to be punished if they really didn't pay the tax. But as of now it is only talking we never see anything. Because we cannot charge any person without any proof. It is not that the government doesn't follow up but the government has to look at it if it is really true or not. Because it is a, we can come back, actually we can come back and sue them. If you really cannot prove that it is true that we don't pay any taxes then I don't believe that. With 500 million dollars you need another at least 500 shipments, how can we believe that you have not paid for 500 shipments for the past seven years.
KH: So you think the MP was just posturing or hitting out in an unsubstantiated way as he was leaving his post?
SY: No I am not saying that way but I am saying if there is some it is a lot of conflict. Like if some of them just forgotten or what I am not saying anything about that. But just show us then we will help them to prosecute these kind of companies. Because we always say that SFA is not to harbour any criminal.
KH: And the latest reports of a court decision allowing APID ( Asia Pacific Investment Development) is it to export logs that were illegally harvested you are saying that sets a bad precedent?
SY: Oh yes I am not saying any company or I am not saying who is that company. What I am saying is you sending a bad reputation. Because this precedent will open up to everything like illegal logging can cut anywhere. At the end of the day the court will release the cargo. So that is what we are against because we want to clean up the mess that has already been done for the past how many decades. So we want to clean it up, but we try our best to clean it up then this kind of precedent coming up then what can we do about it? We only try to help the government to clean up. This government is trying their best that is why when we complain about something they do action about it. Its really totally on implementation only. If they will implement all the policy and all the reform that we want and the reform that we want then we wont have any problem then we can start to be proud that this SFA is cleaning up the mess. But without the support of the government we cannot battle all these problems.
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