Bear prowls SI

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UNDER THE COVER OF DARKNESS
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  • 6 Russians arrive last night in dubious circumstances
  • Russians ‘interested’ in resurrecting our development bank
  • Reports of plot to oust Prime Minister Rick Hou

By Alfred Sasako & Other Reports

SIX Russians – two women and four men – arrived in Honiara last night with speculation that the visit was organised by a faction within the Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition for Change (SI DCC) government intent on dethroning Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela.

The Russians’ private jet touched down at Henderson International Airport around 7pm and discharged its passengers under cover of darkness. All traffic lights were turned on roughly half an hour after the jet landed.

Ministry of Civil Aviation and Communications Security at the airport said the electricians arrived late to turn on the lights.

Although the visitors were cleared by normal immigration procedures, the VIP lounge was also opened, reportedly in response to a request “from Canberra”. Two six-seater buses carrying the Russians left the Airport area around 7.45pm.

Island Sun was unable to get details of the aircraft as it left after it was cleared.

Government sources told Island Sun earlier yesterday that the visit by the Russians appeared to be “organised” during visits by two senior officials from the Office of the Prime Minister to Nadi, Fiji about two weeks ago.

“The two officials apparently met a Russian contact somewhere in Fiji during the visit. It was through their discussions that today’s [yesterday’s] visit was organised,” one insider told Island Sun.

According to the insider the Russians are businessmen interested in resurrecting the now-defunct Development Bank of Solomon Islands (DBSI).

“Whether the Russians are aware that they were being used in a political power game, no one knows. What is known is that the Office of the Prime Minister is keeping the group under tight surveillance,” the insider said.

The visit by the Russians comes at a time when talks of a major shakeup within the Houenipwela’s Cabinet are imminent.

There are several versions including one which said the group intent on removing the Prime Minister continued to meet, having had at least two meetings in the past week. The meeting was attended by senior government officials and Opposition MPs.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Manasseh Sogavare who is reportedly still holding personal resentments against his successor after his downfall last November has reportedly been reunited with the MPs who deserted him.

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“The group is now intent in boycotting the 2018 Budget,” insiders said.

“The aim here is not to pass it. There are already indications that the current Finance Minister is playing delaying tactics. It is a good thing that the PM has called Parliament early so that it will put the minister on the spot,” the insider said.

Parliament is due to meet on February 28, instead of the second week of March.

Other reports suggest that the Group is backed up by a Russian financial investor who is interested in running the soon to be revived DBSI.

The reports say the arrangement is for the Russian investor to support the current move with a deal to allow the Russian investor to take over DBSI.

This same Russian investor applied through the CBSI back in 2013 but the application was denied by the current Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela who was the Finance Minister back then.

This issue allegedly resulted in the removal of the Permanent Secretary of Finance Shadrack Fanega by then Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.

On Sunday last week, Kadere Party allegedly dispatched the Special Secretary to Prime Minister John Muria jnr and former chief of staff Robson Djokovic to Fiji where they met with the Russian contact.

“They flew out just before Prime Minister Houenipwela went to Port Moresby for the Melanesian Spearhead Group summit and flew back into the country on Tuesday just before the Prime Minister arrived back on Friday,” those familiar with the trip said.

“The reasons given by the two officers for their short leave were that the SSPM travelled to Fiji to accompany his younger sister. However, his younger sister flew out to Nadi on Friday, the same flight the PM arrived on which transited in Nadi.

“Mr Djokovic told OPMC officials that he was travelling to Australia to visit a sick relative but was also seen boarding the same flight with the SSPM on that day,” insiders said.

Prime Minister Houenipwela is well aware of the move and is closely monitoring the visits by the Russians.

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