Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act
WHEREAS section 5C of the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act (Cap.40) sets out the procedure for the acquisition of timber rights in Solomon Islands.
AND WHEREAS the determination of timber rights on customary land is not the same thing as the determination of the ownership of customary land.
AND WHEREAS the High Court in Allardyce Lumber Company Limited, Bisili, Roni, Sakiri, Hiele, Sasae, Poza, Zengahite, Daga, Pato and Zingihite v Attorney‐General, Commissioner of Forests Resources, Premier of Western Province and Paia [1988/89] S.I.L.R. 78 confirms that ownership of customary land and ownership of timber rights are not the same thing.
AND WHEREAS this position has been disputed as not representing the true position in customary land in that persons who own customary land also own the timber on that land.
NOW THEREFORE in exercise of the powers conferred by section 5(1) of the Law Reform Commission Act, 1994, I, OLIVER ZAPO, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs hereby refer to the Law Reform Commission the following –
To enquire and report to me on –
- The effectiveness/appropriateness of the timber acquisition procedure under section 5C of the Forest Resources and Timber Utilisation Act (Cap. 40);
- The true position in customary law regarding ownership of customary land and timber on customary land in view of section 5C of the Forests Resources and Timber Utilisation Act (Cap. 40) and the High Court ruling above;
- Whether or not the Area Council is the appropriate authority to determine ownership of timber on customary land;
- Any reforms necessary to make the law more suited to the aspirations of Solomon Islanders.
Dated at Honiara this 1st day of May 1995
Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs
NB: Explanation: The procedure for the acquisition of timber right on customary land is prescribed by section 5C of the Forests Resources and Timber Utilisation Act (Cap. 90). This position is further endorsed by the High Court when it remarked that ownership of customary land is not the same thing as ownership of timber rights. This position has been questioned on the basis that is does not represent the customary law position in the determination of ownership of customary land and the timber sitting on it. Also, the area council as the authority to decide who is entitled to grant timber rights has been questioned on the basis of its appropriateness in the context of customary land tenure ownership system in Solomon Islands. It is therefore in the public interest to review section 5C above and bring about change if necessary.