Tulagi police reportedly made the announcement to burn two Vietnamese fishing vessels in an operation in Ngella, Central Province that left two men injured, but some local landowners deny police involvement.
In an exclusive interview with SIBC, Ngella landowner Drumond Manekeha said officers witnessed the destruction of the so-called blue boats last week but did not order locals to burn them.
“We don’t want rumors to go around regarding the burning of the boats,” he said.
“The boats have been completely destroyed, and we don’t want people to blame the police or the fisheries for the incident that happened.”
According to a statement issued by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, officers witnessed the operation at the request of the fisheries ministry and provided security support but did not participate in the actual destruction of the boats.
“The RSIPF received a request for assistance from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to transport their officers by police boat to the areas of Hanibeta Bay in the Ngella Islands. The RSIPF provided that transport assistance and also used local police resources to cordon the area for security purposes,” the statement said.
Mr Manekeha said the boats had been moored in his tribe’s area since July, and the landowners submitted a claim to the fisheries ministry to be paid for looking after the boats for months.
They also attempted to contact Iona Firi Properties Limited, the company tasked with destroying the boats, to urge them to move the boats or compensate landowners for keeping them there.
After the company failed to respond, the landowners asked the fisheries ministry for permission to burn the boats.
“We had a dialogue with the ministry of fisheries, and we made an agreement that we must burn the boats,” Mr Manekeha said.
There was no fuel or harmful chemicals inside the boats, he said, and they were told it was safe to destroy them.
“We carried out the burning at our own risk,” he said. “We admit that we are responsible for what happened — it is not the fault of police or fisheries.”
By Lowen Sei