Private Column by Transparency Solomon Islands
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Friday, 20 September 2013 3:12 AM

Know Your Rights!

The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association (KIBCA) success in the High Court sends a great message to communities throughout the country.

Late last month the High Court granted an injunction over a logging license held by a business that is owned by the Prime Minister, Viuru Forest Enterprises.

This decision was taken on the basis that there was evidence that the necessary legal requirements for granting the logging license were not met.

Some of the legal requirements which the Court considered were the requirement to hold a ‘Timber Rights Meeting’ and the requirement to obtain development consent from the Ministry of Environment.

It’s worth remembering some of what the law says that logging companies must do in order to obtain a license.

Under the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act a company that wants to obtain a logging license must first conduct a ‘Timber Rights Meeting’ with land owners, provincial executive and provincial forestry officers.

This is so even if a previous license was issued for the land that has since expired, as occurred in the High Court case.

At this meeting the company and the land owners should try to reach an agreement on whether the timber rights owners want logging, exactly which areas will be logged, how they will be logged, what sort of infrastructure the company will supply and plans for reforestation after the logging is completed.

If no agreement can be reached through this process then the application must be rejected.

And in a situation where the agreement was reached on the consent of only a few, or some land owners the application should be rejected or amended.

Only if an agreement is reached with the consent of all landowners and then put in writing can it progress to the next stage.

At the next stage the Provincial Executive issues a “Certificate of Determination” identifying certain individuals as the trustees of timber rights.

However, anyone who still believes that they hold timber rights, and object to the logging operation (or to the choice of trustees), has the right to appeal the ‘Certificate of Determination’ at the Customary Land Appeal Court.

Transparency Solomon Islands would like to congratulate KIBCA, their lawyers at the Landowners Advocacy and Legal Support Unit (LALSU) and all other people involved in the case for this significant win.

Despite having a powerful name behind this case, the rule of law has prevailed.

Also this case set precedent to other communities throughout the country that if you know your rights and seek access to quality legal advice, the law will protect you.

It shows what can be achieved when people or communities seek legal advice and use the justice system.

The law can protect you and your community against logging or mining dispute only if you report it and use the legal system to settle your disputes.

If your community is experiencing a similar dispute over logging or mining issues the right place to seek legal advice is the LALSU office.

LALSU is a unit of the Public Solicitors Office that provides free legal advice and in some cases representation to landowners that have disputes with logging or mining operations.

You can get in touch with LALSU by calling their office in Honiara on +677 28406 or in Gizo on +677 60682.

TSI also operates a free legal service for victims and witnesses of corruption. If you have a legal issue that you believe that it relates to corruption you can get in touch with ALAC by calling 28319/20391.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Transparency Solomon Islands and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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