5 Oct 2011

Solomons government stands by RIPEL deal

11:33 am on 5 October 2011

The Solomon Islands government says its settlement with the Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited is legal, despite questions over the deal.

The government has signed a five million US dollar settlement to end eight years of the investment's non-activity and protracted labour disputes.

But the opposition wants more clarification on the payout, while the workers' union wants RIPEL management investigated for alleged money laundering.

The Prime Ministers press secretary says an advance of almost three and half million US dollars has been paid to the Central Bank for the RIPEL chairman Patrick Wong to pay mortgagees, and 1.4 million is now earmarked to pay outstanding workers' claims.

David Tuhanuku says no further investigation is needed.

"The Appropriation Act that governs the 2011 budget, provides for the Minister of Finance to borrow up to 100 million dollars Solomons, and it is that provision that the government has used to make that advance for this settlement with RIPEL."

David Tuhanuku.

RIPEL was a key producer of cocoa and copra products and a major contributor to the economy until a labour dispute erupted in 2004.