Dispute deepens

THE dispute between villagers of Vanikoro Island in Temotu province and their Member of Parliament (MP) for Vatud Constituency has taken a severe twist, when machines destined for a growth centre at the Island was reportedly destroyed and burnt up, Sunday.

Recently, villagers and chiefs from the Islands have blocked a barge loaded with machinery that were shipped to the Island on the direction of Vatud MP Freda Tuki.

Claims received by the Solomon Star from the landowners said, the machines were shipped for logging purposes instead of the setting up of the growth centre – a claim that MP Tuki totally denied in her reports.

It was reported that MP Tuki is aligning with Ngu brothers to hire their machines for clearing the site earmarked to develop the constituency growth centre in Vanikoro, earlier this month.

The report also hinted that these were the same loggers who breached court orders to unload its logging machines in West Guadalcanal recently.

Report stated that they were chased out from Vanikoro after they attempted to enter the island, with their excavators to do illegal logging.

However, on their second attempt to berth again at the island on Saturday night failed, when angry villagers who stood for their democratic rights took the law into their own hands on Sunday morning.

“The dispute reached another level when the villagers of Vanikoro ransacked the barge after it failed to listen to their orders.

“As a result, machines that were loaded in the barge were torched, and chainsaws plus a number of Outboard Motor (OBM) engines were looted,” one of the representatives of the island Benjamin Tua told the Solomon Star yesterday.

Mr Tua said, they were totally unhappy with the MP’s style of leadership.

Meanwhile, responding to the reports of the incident on Sunday, MP Tuki said she also received reports yesterday regarding the situation of burning and looting at Vanikoro but wished not to comment until she received full report from her parties at the site.

MP Tuki also however clarifies the proposed development at Vanikoro as a Constituency Development Centre and not a Growth Centre, or a logging operation that seriously led to a misleading news for the public at large (see separate story).

When contacted yesterday, Police officers from Lata also confirmed the incident but refused to comment further.

This paper was directed to talk to the Provincial Police Commander (PPC) Lata Frank Menesa, but was unsuccessful after he failed to respond before this paper went to print.


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