Crime & Court

 Freesoul Trial: Witness Tells Why Works Were Illegal

Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Limited is charged by the DPP with one count each of undertaking unauthor­ised developments and of failure to comply with a prohibition notice
20 Nov 2020 10:02
 Freesoul Trial: Witness Tells Why Works Were Illegal
Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Limited Project Officer Saula Sovanivalu (right) with lawyer David Toganivalu (left) outside the Courthouse in Suva on November 18, 2020. Photo: Ashna Kumar

The development works carried out by Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Limited was illegal.

These were state witness, Environment officer for the Ministry of Environment, Kelera Tokalau’s evidence while she took stand yesterday in the trial of the Director of Public Prosecutions against Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Lim­ited.

The trial commenced yesterday before Magistrate Seini Puamau.

The DPP is represented by counsels She­lyn Kiran and Monisha Naidu from the Office of the DPP while Freesoul is repre­sented by counsels David Toganivalu and Tevita Cagilaba from Toganivalu Legal.

Freesoul Real Estate Development (Fiji) PTE Limited is charged by the DPP with one count each of undertaking unauthor­ised developments and of failure to comply with a prohibition notice.

Trial Day 2:

In her evidence yesterday, Ms Tokalau told the court that Freesoul was required to un­dertake EIA study and prepare and file the EIA report in order for the Department of Environment to make a decision.

She told the court that there were no con­cerns at the point when the screening of the application was done, however, there was a site inspection conducted.

She also told the court that before the site inspection, Freesoul was notified of the same through Anasa Tawake.

She told the court that the first site inspec­tion was done on August 1, 2018 and the pur­pose was to check the site before the terms of reference were prepared for the develop­ments.

Ms Tokalau also told the court that after the site inspection was done. She signed off on the report which included subject of in­spection, date, findings, assessments, loca­tion and finances.

It was noted that the site was in its natural state with mangroves on the foreshore.

Ms Tokalau testified that after the inspec­tion, terms of reference were prepared by her and approved by the Director of Envi­ronment.

She also told the court that the consultant was referred to the content of terms of ref­erence in order to make his study and com­pile an EIA report based on those findings.

Ms Tokalau told the court that the EIA re­port also needed to identify a sensitive area that may be affected by the development such as the trees, fish in the developing site sea, mangroves, and other marine animals at the site.

She also told the court that the project involved residential lots, villas and access roads.

Ms Tokalau testified that the develop­ments on the land was supposed to begin when the EIA was approved.

Development undertaken

She told the court that on June 1, 2018, she visited the site again because the Depart­ment of Environment received concerns from the public that development works had commenced at the site.

She told the court that following the in­spection, a prohibition notice was issued by the Director of Environment which had been sent to her via email and she had emailed the notice to Mr Tawake at Free­soul and that person had confirmed receipt via a phone call and later via email.

Ms Tokalau then told the court that on July 26, 2018, there was another inspection conducted and a report prepared on the inspection by her after the Department of Environment had received complaints that works continued to be undertaken at the site.

She told the court that on that visit, she noticed that the development works had commenced at the proposed development site and when she approached the site in the boat, the land was newly escalated and the escalation materials were at the site.

She told the court that extended further inland to the foreshore, a desalination plant had been set up at the gate and a portion of the beachfront had been reclaimed.

She testified that the site visit confirmed that development works of staff quarters and newly constructed access road contin­ued at the site despite the issuing of the prohibition notice to Freesoul in June, 2018.

She told the court that the case was taken further to the Director of the Public Pros­ecutions (DPP) for proper offence and pen­alty advice and the decision on the matter.

She added since prohibition notice was not adhered to by Freesoul, the department had recommended prosecution advice.

Freesoul was told to stop any develop­ment works and to carry out rehabilitation works and complete the EIA study and sub­mit a report.

She told the court that all those develop­ments were illegal.

She added she had made another visit to the site on 11 August, 2018, this time in the accompaniment of the Ministry of Envi­ronment Permanent Secretary, Department of Environment Director, Fiji Police Force personnel, EIA consultant, proposed devel­oper and other stakeholders.

The trial continues today.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj

 



5SQRS Clearance


Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper