Caretaker Gov’t: $140 million payment is to avoid losing LSL and RIPEL to foreigners

Caretaker Gov’t: $140 million payment is to avoid losing LSL and RIPEL to foreigners


By Sharon Nanau

The caretaker government has clarified its stand to seek the 140-million dollars to pay the creditors and claim ownership of the Levers Solomon’s Limited (LSL) and Russell Islands Plantation Limited (RIPEL) estates.

The Australian Court handling the estates through a liquidator earlier granted the Solomon Islands government the first right of refusal to pay off the 140-million dollars outstanding due and claim ownership of the estates.

To avoid losing the ownership to foreigners, the caretaker government is seeking financial assistance from the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, the Solomon Islands Ports Authority, and the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority to raise the amount.

Speaking at a media conference yesterday, Secretary to Cabinet, Nego Sisiolo said, the government sees it fit to make the payment to ensure the people of Guadalcanal and Russell Islands regain full control of the estates.

“The caretaker cabinet met on 20 February this year to look into the issue, from the meeting a request was made to NPF for a commercial loan for the purchase of the estates, direct MOFT and the Prime Minister’s office to secure funds for the estates’ commitment.” 

Secretary to Cabinet Nego Sisiolo

Secretary to the Prime Minister and Chair of the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund Board, Dr Jimmie Rodgers confirmed receiving requests from Cabinet for the institutions to raise the 140-million dollars. 

“Cabinet’s decision was conveyed to the chairs of the three boards through the Secretary to cabinet because 140-million dollars is a lot of money for one entity to cover,” Dr Rodgers said. 

He explained that the 140 million dollars is not covered in the current budget. 

“Our budget for 2024 is appropriated by parliament and so we can only fund something that is in the appropriated budget, this issue came in after our budget was appropriated, which means there needs to be a new financial allocation for it which only the new elected government can make.” 

Secretary to the Prime Minister and Chair of the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund Board Dr Jimmie Rodgers

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury Mckinnie Dentana said under the Public Financial Management Act only the Minister of Finance can authorize or seek financing through the formal and legal process. 

“During this period because of the Minister’s caretaker status he can’t perform that duty that’s why there’s communication and deliberation from cabinet and the Secretary to Cabinet office communicates, but the proper and legal authority rests with the Minister of Finance which only can be made after the upcoming elections.” 

Attorney General John Muria Jr also told the local media that the decision to pay and claim ownership of the estates began in 2019.

However, the necessary payment could not be made due to reasons associated with covid-19 and the 2023 Pacific Games.

“When the issue came up in 2019 the payment issue was not in a critical stage, now the government’s fear is having the estates fall into foreign ownership.”

Meanwhile the initial deadline to initiate the payment is set for this month.

However, an agreement was reached with the Liquidator last week to finalize the payment after the joint election on 17 April.


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