20 Oct 2008

Solomons Government wants courts to sort out ownership arrangements of RIPEL

4:12 pm on 20 October 2008

The acting Finance Minister of Solomon Islands, Gordon Darcy Lilo, says legal action is needed to sort out the ownership arrangements of the formerly lucrative Russell Islands Plantations Estate, or RIPEL.

Mr Darcy Lilo has told the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation that the Government wants the copra and cocoa plantation to resume operations because its closure is costing the country millions of dollars of foreign exchange.

RIPEL is idle after years of labour disputes while one shareholder, Patrick Wong, is threatening to take full ownership unless a debt of nearly seven million US dollars is paid to his finance company.

The Government has said it will challenge any take-over and wants RIPEL to re-open so the country can benefit from the surge in price for copra oil and cocoa.

Mr Darcy Lilo says the Government sees legal action as the only way to resolve the long-standing issues in dispute which led to the closure of operations.

And he says RIPEL was established at the wrong time and the only way to get it right is to revisit the scheme of ownership arrangement in the courts.