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Armed men hired

FOREIGN armed security personnel are said to have been engaged by logging operators in south-west Choiseul, after landowners in a fit of fury burned down machines and equipment last December, eyewitnesses have told Island Sun.

Six foreign armed personnel were engaged initially, when logging machines and equipment were landed in the area about 10km from Sasamuga on 20 November 2016, according to witnesses.

And landowners say the loggers are operating illegally on their land, but could do little about it because the company has allegedly engaged armed foreign security guards in their camp.

Three have since left.

“Now there are three armed security guards in the camp. They are foreigners and they are armed. They are patrolling the camp fully armed, causing fear amongst members of the communities in the area. Our children no longer feel safe to go to school or to move around freely as they used to,” one of the eyewitnesses said.

“Sometimes they shoot at our domesticated animals indiscriminately right in front of our eyes, but what can we do? We are helpless because we are not armed,” the eyewitness said.

“We do not want arms in our community. That is really the bottom line.”

One of the witnesses said the matter was reported to police in Taro prior to the burning of machines and equipment last December but since then no action had been taken to alley community fears.

One of the Community leaders also wrote several letters to the Commissioner of Forests protesting illegal logging activities on their land, but their efforts had also drawn blanks, they said.

“We know it is the same old story. These people are on the payroll of logging companies. It is not in their interest to protect community or landowners’ interests. They are more interested in protecting the interests of logging companies because they have the money to pay,” the eyewitness said.

The eye witness said resource owners and communities all over the country are concerned because it seems governments and police are no longer interested in protecting the ordinary people.

“We may be forced to take the law into our own hands,” the Choiseul community leader said.



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