The business operation license of Russell Islands Plantations Estate Limited, RIPEL, has been suspended by Government.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stated that his action was largely based on humanitarian grounds. He says the closure of the company's operations, which is one of the largest coconut and cocoa plantations in this part of the Pacific region, was causing a humanitarian crisis.

Sogavare said that the situation in RIPEL has become desperate, many families have had to scavenge for food and other necessities in order to survive. The Prime Minister stated on the National Radio, SIBC, that the stand-off between the trade union and the company management had resulted in large consignments of copra from the Russell Islands having been confiscated and payment held up in Honiara because of a court injunction sought by the company.

Mr Sogavare says this has further exacerbated the situation for farmers from Russell Islands who cannot sell their copra in Honiara. Sogavare said the only option left for the Government is to suspend RIPEL's business license.