Campaign for Justice is still waiting for the Government to announce what action is being taken, or will be taken regarding the scathing report into illegal loggings as revealed recently by its own Commission of Inquiry (COI).
In June this year, the Commission of Inquiry concluded its investigations after interviewing 72 people by submitting a report to the Minister for Justice Esmon Saimon who then proceeded on to table the inquiry report before the national Parliament at its last sitting.
However, inquiry reports are just that, unless its findings and recommendations are followed through and acted upon to stamp out the activity in question.
It is a waste of public funds to set up a Commission of Inquiry and then not do anything about its findings. It does not make sense, and defeats the whole purpose of justice if these things are treated so lightly.
It is public knowledge that extra financial resources have had to be allocated and required parliamentary endorsement to meet the expectations of the Commission of Inquiry, and for the team to properly conclude its report.
We have not sighted a copy of the Commission of Inquiry, but from reading recent media reports, there is no doubt that blame and responsibility for these illegal logging activities have been laid squarely at the doorstep of the ministry responsible for forestry issues, as well as the Department of Environment Protection and Conservation (DEPC). The Forestry department instituted a ban on forestry logging, especially of the lucrative rosewood timber in 2018.
As if to add salt to injury, the Department of “Environment of Protection and Conservation” turned a blind eye on illegal loggings happening within VATTHE conservation area in Big Bay Santo. VATTHE was once the pride of this country in terms of environmental preservation. Remember VATTHE is an internationally recognised conservation area listed by the UNESCO. It is clear that is not the case anymore.
We ask, ‘What sort of message is the Government sending out to communities who have similar visions and wish to conserve their environment for the benefit of their future generations?’
Yes, it is a given that it is entirely within the rights of landowners to use their forestry resources according to their own management plan. You should not forget that they signed up to doing so in a sustainable manner so that such conservation initiatives serve as models of good stewardship of the natural abundance that so many of our islands possess.
Vanuatu would do well conserving and protecting, rather than falling for the selfish materialistic ambitions that humans are sadly growing so accustomed to.
We ask of those responsible: ‘What now? Should the public expect that these commissioned reports will die their natural deaths? Or were they just for electioneering and political propaganda?’ We hope not.
We certainly want to believe that after 41 years, the Government has ‘graduated’ from that kind of modus operandi.
As such, we are seriously questioning that three months on, ‘can the public expect to see, for once at least, that authorities put their money where their mouth is?’