AFTER weeks of undercover operations by investigators from Campaign for Justice (C4J, a report has been handed over to the Government through the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation (DEPC).
As a result 10 suspects may be charged under the Environmental Protection and Conservation Act (CAP 283), for illegal logging activities within the Vatthe Conservation Area in Big Bay, Santo.
The 10 suspects have been identified, cautioned and statements have been obtained from them. Up to 20 witnesses are likely to testify in the case if the case does proceed in court.
Campaign for Justice looks forward to working closely with the office of the Public Prosecutor to ensure that ‘the rape of our natural resources for commercial gain is stopped’.
“When and if prosecuted, it will be the first-ever case brought under the Act since the Environmental Protection Act was passed in 2002, and will set a precedent for conservation in Vanuatu,” said C4J Director Russel Nari.
“It is now up to the Director of Environmental Protection and Conservation and the Office of the Public Prosecutor to ensure that such violations are appropriately dealt with under the law.’’
The Vatthe Conservation Area is one of the first and largest formally registered conservation areas in Vanuatu which benefitted from over VT 40 million of funds provided under the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Program (SPBCP).
C4J said it would appear that this illegal logging operation may have been going on for some time, according to official documents obtained so far, and government officials concerned were fully aware of what was taking place within the Vatthe Conservation Area.