The Solomon Islands Government’s attempt to suspend an enforcement order to pay Levers Solomon Ltd AU$9 million in compensation for the use of its land at Alligator Creek in east Honiara has been thwarted.
The High Court in Honiara dismissed the government application on Tuesday and raised concerns on the government’s action for not making any effort to pay the amount.
The Solomon Islands Government was ordered to pay the amount to the company by 4:30pm on September 13.
The government was asked why it had evaded making the payment in compliance with repeated High Court Orders without giving any valid reason.
The initial order was given by the High Court in 2015 and is related to the use of land jointly owned by Levers Solomon Ltd and RIPEL at Bloody Ridge east of Honiara. The Solomon Islands government had continued to use the land without making any payments for it.
The company had taken the government to court and despite High Court enforcement orders, the government avoided paying the debt.
The ruling on Tuesday could open the floodgates on similar outstanding claims ordered by the High Court against the government including another compensation order of AU$10 million for wrongful imprisonment.
The Solomon Islands Government is yet to make any statements regarding their failure to pay the amount.
However earlier in the year, the Solomon Islands Government did make attempts to take over the company so it could avoid making the payment ordered by the court.
A statement issued in May of this year said the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet confirmed that it was working to resolve long outstanding issues between Levers Solomon Ltd and the Solomon Islands Government.
It said one of the key policy objectives was to acquire the company and its assets through Court appointed Administrators under a Deed of Company Arrangement for a fraction of the cost to what the value of land owned by the company was worth.
It was stated that there were ongoing negotiations between the Solomon Islands Government and the administrators appointed under the Corporations Act of the Commonwealth of Australia.
It said that under the Deed of Company Agreement, if executed, will see the Solomon Islands gain full control of the companies that control LSL and the assets.
While the government is delaying making the payment there are many in the Solomon Islands who fear that this is the perfect setting for China to move in and aid the government by way of aid or loans.
The Solomon Islands Government has made no qualms about saying that they did not have much money for major capital works just as yet because of the pandemic.
Levers Pacifics Plantations Pty Ltd was formed in 1928 after acquiring the original company. It was incorporated in 1975, and changed its name to Lever Solomons Ltd in 1980 to form a joint venture company between the Solomon Islands Government and Unilever.
The company was formed to acquire coconut properties in the Pacific to supply copra to the Lever Brothers Ltd mill in Sydney.