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Dccg intensifies efforts to address RIPEL impasse

Hon Dickson Mua handsover of the Marulaon Communique to PM Sogavare last Friday in the presence of Signatories

THE Democratic Coalition for Change (DCC) Government’s efforts to find a lasting solution to the Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited (RIPEL) impasse has culminated into a multi-party Communiqué signed at Marulaon Village Friday last week.

The Marulaon Communiqué was signed by top representatives of the former RIPEL workers, the Lavukal Tribal Chiefs and the Settler Communities in the Russell Islands in the presence of Prime Manasseh Sogavare and Central Islands Premier Patrick Vasuni.

Prime Minister Sogavare was invited to receive the document when he officiated at the Central Islands Province’s 36th Second Appointed Day last Friday for further deliberation by cabinet.

The Communiqué contained resolutions agreed upon by the local parties on Russell Islands who were involved or affected by the long running industrial dispute.

The document was a result of a weeklong stakeholder consultation and awareness programme conducted by officials of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on RIPEL, who has visited the communities to discuss the DCCG’s intention to revive operations on RIPEL.

The aim of the programme was to forge a common understanding between all parties and to develop a lasting solution to the RIPEL impasse.

During the process, stakeholders and individual communities submitted to the Government distinct petitions connecting to issues and challenges they have faced during the operations and more specifically after the ‘strike’ action in 2004.

The ‘strike’ was a significant period in the RIPEL operations as it marked the outright clashes between the management of RIPEL and its workers. This unfortunate event essentially saw the workers standing up against the management in protest to alleged mistreatment and outstanding claims.

Since then, no progress has been made even though successive governments have attempted to address the situation.

Receiving the Communiqué last Friday, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said a revival of the Russell Islands Plantations Estate Limited is a priority for the DCC government.

He said the government is doubling its efforts and hopes to address some of the underlying issues affecting the troubled company by the end of this year.

The Prime Minister said the task is not easy and the Government has been taking a strategic approach to settle the dispute to ensure all parties are fairly treated.

RIPEL, which was once the biggest plantation company and a significant revenue earner, has been affected with disputes for almost 13 years involving its foreign owners, the government, unions and workers.

Once revived, there is strong potential for downstream processing of coconut products and the vast RIPEL estate should be part of this.