Tuesday, 28 October 2008 7:51 AM

COI is the Way Forward for RIPEL: Sogavare

Leader of Opposition, Manasseh Sogavare has expressed grave concern over the pure legalistic-based approach taken by the government to deal with the long-standing RIPEL dispute.

Mr. Sogavare said the government's intention to bring the issue directly to court will not work because the history of the case has clearly shown that this approach has been futile.

He said the only way forward in finding an amicable solution to the problem which resulted in the shutdown of one of the country's major foreign receipt earner companies is through a commission of inquiry. Sogavare said that it is only through this avenue that the government will get to the bottom of the issue.

"The Opposition Group is of the view that the government is only complicating the matter if it takes it to court and not only that it is actually narrowing issues unto the interests of specific groups only.

"What we need to appreciate is that the RIPEL case is more complicated than what people may think because the parties involved are many. We have the national government, the provincial government, both national and provincial politicians; employees of the company and of course the owners, shareholders and directors both here and abroad.

"Once the government starts taking the issue to court, it is basically encouraging every party to take their grievances to court and that is definitely a very complicated exercise. The more the parties do that they will narrow down issues and drive the wedge down to address those specific issues only which are not at all in the best interest of the nation.

"The ultimate interest of Solomon Islands in RIPEL is for it to reopen and contribute to the economy and of course, what is hindering this are the specific interests of the shareholder parties.

"Now in that respect when the Grand Coalition for Change Government was in power, it was going to set up a commission of inquiry whereby enquirers would have devoted time to look though the files on the issue and call on every party that has interest in the RIPEL debate to express what they are not happy about and the issues outstanding for them," Mr. Sogavare said.

The Leader of Opposition added that the rule of evidence in a commission of inquiry is also more relaxed than the court as people can express how they feel and they can also bring up related issues which they will not normally do in court.

"The well-researched and broad findings of a commission of inquiry will give the government a clear picture on how it should address the dispute. Matters that need to be dealt with by the court should be put to the court and likewise the matters that can be addressed administratively.

"If the reports reaching the Opposition Group that the government is looking at a new owner to just take over RIPEL from the existing one without addressing his concerns are true then that action does not reflect any good spirit and attitude by the government to investors.

"The government must abide by the laws that govern how it should deal with investors. If it starts taking shortcuts deporting investors whenever it does not want them and only stops when the court rules against it then that does not demonstrate any genuineness in the way it wants investors to come into the country," he said.

Source: Press Release

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