9 Jul 2013

Probe into export of prohibited species underway in Solomons

5:24 pm on 9 July 2013

The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Forestry in Solomon Islands says allegations that 'tubi', a rare wood, has been illegally milled and exported, are being investigated.

Jeffrey Wickham says the Ministry was made aware that permits were being issued for tubi, to allow some logging companies to cut and export the timber, which is highly sought after on the international market.

He told Bridget Tunnicliffe that the Ministry of Environment and Conservation issued permits but says the Ministry of Forestry believes that tubi is still a prohibited species.

JEFFREY WICKHAM: There is an argument going on between the ministry and the ministry of the environment. From what we understand all the permits issued for the harvesting of tubi were granted by the environment division of the Ministry of Environment and Conservation. And this particular permit is issued under the Wildlife Protection and Management Act. Now, we understand that this particular act is very specific and particular to items or species that are prohibited for export or for sale, and it is primarily... A certain section in that particular Act only talks about research. From what we understand, these permits were issued for research purposes. It eventually turned out that when these logs were shipped out, Customs and Excise weren't sure whether they were for research purposes or were they for commercial export purposes? Now, from what we understand, these permits were issued not for research permits, but rather for commercial purposes. How this thing is going on is just mind-boggling. I really am not very certain about what is going on. But we have proceeded in providing certain information and details to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further investigation, and also we have provided information to Transparency International for further investigation. How they were able to get felling licenses through a research permit is something that I can't understand. Our view is that only the Ministry of Forestry under its current legislation is permitted to allow people to fell certain species for export, either as logs or as timber.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: You've handed over some information to the public prosecutor's office. Who are they going to be investigating? Will their investigations include looking at ministry of environment officials?

JW: I would presume so, yes. And I would presume that they will be looking at the two legislations to fully understand what these legislations are all about. And, I suppose, after identifying the true meaning of those particulars, then probably we can get down to asking why those permits are being issued.