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Rennell mining Landowners block flight

Staff Reporter | 1:22 AM |
WEST Rennell landowners in Honiara on Tuesday blocked a Solomon Airlines plane from flying to the remote island as tensions between landowner rages.

Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID), which has a licence to do bauxite mining in west Rennell chartered the flight, which was scheduled to leave Honiara at 12.30pm.

But members of the West Rennell taskforce in Honiara assembled early at the domestic terminal with placards warning APID not to take the trip.

They also advised Solomon Airlines not to allow the charter, which was subsequently cancelled.

A spokesman for the taskforce Jefter Tuhangenga told the Solomon Star APID officials who are scheduled to board the plane will be armed with eviction orders from the High Court.

“Their intention is to go to west Rennell and start chasing people off the land they recently acquired through a controversial acquisition process,” Mr Tuhangenga said.

“We cannot allow that to happen because if they do, there will be blood-shed,” he added.

 “We have decided to drive up to the airport for the Solomon Airline management to see how we dislike the move by the mining company and our strong message to airline to cancel the chartered flight by APID.

APID responded to the action yesterday by labelling it “a childish move”.

“I don’t understand what these people are trying to do,” the company’s media consultant Takika Tu’ata stated.

 “If they have any problem with APID they should request for dialogue, but not to protest in front of an airline office demanding cancellation of a chartered flight,” he added.

Mr Tua’ata said if the so-called landowners claimed ownership of the airport runaway then that is a different story, and if that was the case then the airfield should close to all flights.

He claimed the west Rennell taskforce members acted in the interest of opposing parties like Samlimsan logging company and World Link, a company also eying the bauxite deposits on Rennell.