Honiara : 3 September 2017
Letter to the Editors, Solomon Star and Island Sun newspapers.
More and more I read of incidents and disputes occurring in the Solomon Islands involving Asian logging contractors and indigenous landowners.
I can cite several cases in which logging equipment and machinery has been torched allegedly by angry landowners when logging contractors encroached on their customary land without consent.
There was even a reported incident at Kazukuru in the Western Province just last week when Gallego Resources, a logging company, tried to land their equipment on Kazukuru customary land but there was strong resistance from disgruntled landowners who resisted attempts to bring logging machinery ashore.
Logging has been the mainstay of the Solomons economy for many years but there has always been a perception that the incapacity of the state to control timber companies has led to patterns of environmental mismanagement and allegations of corrupt practices.
Here it is perhaps fair to say state capacity is undercut by weak state legal powers over forests, attitudes of decision makers, cultural pressures on state members, political instability, bad policies, inadequate bureaucratic resources, and to a lesser extent, ties among state officials and corporate executives.
It is against such a backdrop that allegations of corruption in forest management are always being levelled and it is even whispered that the members of the police force in certain provinces are being bribed by logging harvesters to evade sanctions for rule violations.
The RSIPF must not allow its re-built reputation to be sullied by such allegations of petty corruption and it is imperative that the police service has clearly laid down policy guide lines (if not already in existence) in the form of standing orders for handling logging and landowner disputes, including how to deal effectively, fairly and impartially when there is a breach of the peace or a public order situation arising from logging incidents.
An act of corruption, or the abuse of trusted power, is a disciplinary offence in the Police Act and Police Regulations and every police officer must remain mindful of his or her duty to uphold the law and not to be in any way influenced to take bribes no matter the circumstances.