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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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    Landowners want GG to intervene

    Governor General Sir David Vunagi


    A GROUP of concerned forest resource owners from Shortlands and Choiseul is making an appeal to the Governor General Sir David Vunagi.

    They kindly asked Sir David to inquire into the allegations of collusion between the Solomon Forest Association, its President and Executive Members, the Attorney General Chambers and the Commissioner of Forest and the Forestry Office on alleged organized crimes and “underhanded” dealings that caused the nation to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

    Landowners from Kubobangara Customary Land and Kubongava Customary Land in South Choiseul say they have gone through many avenues, legally and constitutionally, but authorities lacked the enthusiasm to correct the wrongs.

    “Consider, these wrongs was made in 2007 and now is 2021, a 14-year span, Governments, both past and present did not show any enthusiasm in making corrections to the wrongs,” they said.

    A group of Choiseul Landowners claimed that logging companies who are SFA members did not pay them their royalties from shipment of logs harvested from their forest and their other dues.

    “Matter was brought to the court, Court Injunction Orders was obtained, proceeds was released by Consent Orders signed by the Attorney General Chambers.

    “No matter how the landowners defend their resources from unscrupulous logging companies, foreign logging companies is being shielded by Solomon Forest Association, by a web of complicated ‘contract’, ‘agreement’and ‘deed’, a collusion between Solomon Forest Association, it President, Executives and Members, the Commissioner of Forest, the Attorney General Chambers and the Registrar of Lands and Titles,” they said.

    Among the allegations are:

    1.   Felling License are issued without going through the Timber Rights Acquisitions procedure.

    2.   Grant of Profits was issued to fraudsters or when the land is under caveat.

    3.  Logging operations still continue and logs are exported when there are existing court injunction orders.

    4.    Awarding Sale Order without advertising for tender.

    5.  Proceeds from Export are released by Consent Orders signed by the Attorney General Chambers.

    6.   Logging equipment and assets seized do not have any record that the logging equipment and assets seized are being auctioned off.

    7.   Felling of protected species of tree (Tubi) and exporting protected species logs.

    8.   Smuggling of logs and evasion of export duties.

    The landowners said reports lodged with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, the Criminal Investigation Department, Fraud Unit, JANUS, from 2014 to date, the case is still pending, excuse, high profile case.

    They believed God has chosen our Governor General as the Head of State.

    “May the Governor General exercise the Executive Authority of the People of the People of Solomon Islands in the betterment of Solomon Islands,” one of the landowners said.

    However, Private Secretary of Government House, Rawcliffe Ziza said it is bit rare for the Governor General to intervene in this kind of case because it is the matter of court to determine.

    Ziza, a lawyer by profession, said whatever disagreements must follow the process because it is a dispute between individuals or groups with the authorities.

    He said in his experience has not come across such issue where the Governor General intervene in it.

    Fatal bomb blast still investigated



    INVESTIGATIONS into the bomb incident in Honiara that killed two expatriates last year is still to be completed.

    Police Commissioner, Mostyn Mangau confirmed this when responding to a question at his weekly press conference last week.

    He said investigators are yet to finalise their findings on that incident, which occurred on September 20, 2020 in a residential area at Tasahe, in West Honiara.

    The bomb blast incident involved two expats, a dual New Zealand -Irish citizen and an Australian national working for the non-government organisation, the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) on a non-technical survey of explosive remnants of World War Two in Solomon Islands.

    Both died from the blast at the office of the project located within the residential area.

    Police said the project was here to involve in non-technical survey for data purposes and they were supposed not to remove explosives or bombs found during their survey.

    Prior to that incident, police were not aware of the fact the two expats removed bombs from their location, until the incident that day.

    Mangau said Solomon Island is one of the heavy battle grounds during World War II and bombs are everywhere.

    “Thus, people need to work together with the police once they see any bomb in their location.”

    Police also said that after the incident and after attending to the scene, the responsible department within the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force moved all other unexploded ordnances discovered at the NPA residence at Tasahe to Hell’s Point for disposal.

    New health bill on the way



    Government is looking forward to tabling the Public Health Emergency Bill in parliament so it can commence before State of Public Emergency ends.

    Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare echoed this Monday.

     “It is the intention of my government to table the Public Health Emergency Bill in Parliament so that it can be commenced before the expiry of the State of Public Emergency on 24th March 2021,” Sogavare said.

    He said this week’s Consultations for remaining provinces will continue to be followed by consultations with colleagues from the Office of the Opposition and Independent Groups after which the Bill will be finalized for submission to Parliament.

    Sogavare said consultation on the new Public Health Emergency Bill is progressing well.

    “The Bills Taskforce team met with churches represented by the Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) and Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association (SIFGA) last week.

    “Our churches are important partners of the government in the fight against COVID-19 and in the broader socio-economic and spiritual development of the country,” he said.

    Call for audit on Kukum Market

    Honiara City Council Clerk Rence Sore. Photo: Charles Kadamana


    A HONIARA resident, John Langi calls on Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to order an audit investigation into the incomplete Kukum market in East Honiara.

    This was after a construction company believed to be owned by one of the Honiara City Councillors, could not complete the project within the time line, due to lack of finance.

    National Government has injected $1.3 million under the Economic Stimulus Project plus Honiara City Council’s estimated $1.2 million towards the Kukum market project last year.

    The World Bank provided assistance also under the CAUSE project towards the market facelift as well.

    Island Sun understands workers of CAUSE project had started work on slapping the pavement outside the main building of the market this month.

    However, Langi said work on the main market building is dormant now.

    He said the PM needs to order an audit investigation to justify the money spent already on the project uplift.

    Langi alleged the council has outstanding debts with construction companies, therefore it could not continue with the work this year.

    HCC Clerk Rence Sore admitted last December that they expected to complete the building before end of 2020 but that was not possible.

    Sore said they are likely to complete the market project in the first quarter of this year and should be opened for use straight away.

    He said in terms of finance, they have already used up all funding support provided by National Government, World Bank and HCC.

    “Since we have already used up that funding support, we are now relying entirely on HCC revenue to complete the building.

    “Due to COVID-19, we find it difficult to secure additional support from other donors or partners,” he said.

    However, Sore believes they are hoping to complete the building using HCC revenue collections by late January or early February.

    But to date, there was no work on the project.

    Use of plastic bag to be banned soon

    Minister of Environment, Titus Fika.


    THE use of plastic bags is expected to be banned soon as government begins tough measures on waste management.

    Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology Titus Fika made the announcement during the launching of Solomon Island Recyclers and Waste Management Association 10-year strategic plan last week.

    He said amendment has been made to the Environment Act to ban the single use of plastic bags.

    Fika said the decision was made to compliment efforts towards addressing solid waste issue in the country.

    He said the flow of wastes to the natural environment is so alarming that immediate intervention should be carried out to mitigate the issue.

    Fika adds that solid wastes shipped to the islands on annual basis is another ongoing issue that needs to be stopped.

    “We still need to make significant and drastic improvements to waste and pollution management in the country because our streets, rivers, streams and sea are littered with all of waste disposed inappropriately,” he said.

    Fika said the recent heavy rain exposes the weakness of our waste management system and the indifferent attitude of the public at large towards waste management.

    He said close collaborations between provincial governments, Honiara City Council and the National Government is paramount to address the waste management.

    Zero covid-19 case



    THE country has all its covid-19 cases becoming negative, meaning there is zero case of the virus in country.

    Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare confirmed this in his national address yesterday.

    “I am happy to announce that our nationally reported cases of covid-19 positive cases remain at 18.

    “All 18 cases are now negative. 14 have been discharged to the community. Four are still at the Central Field hospital. They will be released after they have  three consecutive negative tests seven days apart following their last positive test.

    “This is a tremendous achievement. It is an excellent testament to the effectiveness of our pre-departure protocol on covid-19.

    “It also gives due credit to all travelers to Solomon Islands who complied with our requirements. Thank you,” said Sogavare.

    He said six reactivation cases of covid-19 from the last flight from Manila that came in on January 21, 2021 have also been picked up.

    “All six cases tested positive in our GeneXpert machine but tested negative with the qPCR machine. This indicates extremely low levels of virus fragments in the body that are unlikely to infect other people.

    “All six cases also had antibodies in their system indicating they had all been exposed to covid-19 before they arrived in Solomon Islands and therefore have developed some protection against further COVID-19 infection.

    “All six cases have already tested negative on re-swabbing immediate after their positive tests,” said Sogavare.

    He said they will be released after having three three consecutive negative tests taken seven days apart.

    “Fellow citizens, we do not put the re-activation cases into the central field hospital which is reserved for the new positive covid-19 cases.

    “These cases are isolated in our other quarantine stations on advice from our health experts. They do not pose infection risks to others due to the extremely low viral load that were only picked up by the extremely sensitive GeneXpert machine while negative on the qPCR machine which is currently the Gold Standard for covid-19 tests.

    “Let me assure the public, these same health experts that have been responsible for keeping our country safe want to ensure all reactivation cases are managed at different locations and they will be released following the same protocol of 3 consecutive negative test after their last GeneXpert positive tests.

    “Let me also assure the public we do not have any community transmission of covid-19 in Solomon Islands,” said Sogavare.

    Cabinet approves covid-19 vaccination policy

    Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Photo supplied.


    YESTERDAY cabinet approved the national policy on covid-19 vaccination.

    Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, in his national address said, “I am pleased to inform you all that my Cabinet has approved the National Policy on covid-19 vaccination yesterday afternoon.”

    He said following the approval the Ministry of Health and Medical Services with the support from the COVID-19 National Coordinating Committee and its Technical Working Group on Vaccines have been directed by Cabinet to finalise the implementation plan for rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Solomon Islands.

    Sogavare said the impact of the covid-19 vaccines in reducing both the numbers of new cases of covid-19 infections as well as the seriousness of covid-19 infections is nothing short of miraculous in many countries that had rolled out their vaccination programmes.

    He said there is still a lot more work needs to be done in finalising the country’s roll out plans but early information on the levels of side effects have been extremely encouraging and on the level of protection extremely heartening

    “It is our hope that of much of the world’s populations can be vaccinated this year, so that we could perhaps see a return to some normality in travel by 2022.

    “To date we have been offered 108,000 does of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the COVAX Facility. My government is in the process of negotiating procurement of additional doses of the vaccine,” said Sogavare.

    He said at the moment the detail plans to roll out the vaccine is in progress.

    Sogavare stressed a communication strategy to support awareness about the vaccine programme is also being finalised by the Ministry of Health. This includes important information about the vaccine target groups for the first vaccination.

    “Awareness information about covid-19 vaccines and our vaccination programme will start to appear on all media channels from this week,” he said.

    ‘Abuse of power’

    Leader of Opposition Hon. Mathew Wale. Picture Supplied

    THE Leader of Opposition, Matthew Wale condemns the Prime Minister for using his office to seek support for an intending candidate for the upcoming South Choiseul Constituency by-elections, further labelling the action as abuse of official position.

    A signed letter sighted by the Leader of Opposition shows the Prime Minister asking the Chiefs of the South Choiseul Constituency to pledge their political support for an intending candidate nominated by Our Party. The South Choiseul Constituency seat was left vacant after Robertson Qalokale was removed by petition recently.

    “In my view, the letter is clearly designed to influence the Chiefs and leaders in that Constituency as heads of their respective communities to rally support for the PM’s candidate.

    “It is clear from the tenor of the whole letter that the Chiefs are being told that there are no other choices except that offered by the PM’s ruling government and his political party. This is clearly undemocratic intended to influence how people vote,” says the Opposition Leader.

    Wale adds, “Also, the action appears to be in breach of the Constitution and the Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Act.  While the law imposes a duty on all leaders to carry out their roles in a certain manner; the duty placed on the PM must rank the highest as the buck stops with that office as far as management of the affairs of the country is concerned.”

    He says the duty imposed by law demands that the PM not be engaged in any act that gives rise to a conflict of interest situation, demeans that office or position, or diminishes the respect and confidence people have in the government.

    “Using the official letter head, promoting his political party and saying that the government is the only option for an incoming MP to serve the nation or his people surely must run afoul those constitutional requirements as any sitting non-member of government or any intending candidate, or the public for that matter will certainly be asking questions.

    “I am therefore calling on the Chairman of the Leadership Code Commission to exercise his power to cause an investigation into this matter and to take whatever action is appropriate.  This action borders on misconduct in office and so must be investigated.  No one is above the law,” Wale adds.


    Upside down deaths

    Lake Tengano


    PEOPLE living near Lake Tegano, the biggest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere, have expressed fear at the recent unexpected deaths of flying foxes in the area.

    Reports from the island, which hosts the country’s only bauxite mine and a number of logging operations, say the flying foxes are dying in droves.

    Richie Paungahenau, who lives at Lake Tegano, confirmed witnessing the dead mammals.

     “We noticed flying foxes dying and rot on the ground,” he told Island Sun by phone.

    “We really don’t know the cause of this and we are afraid that there might be something bad going on with our environment,” he added.

    Paungahenau said immediate response to investigate the issue is paramount to decrease further threats among the people.

    “It’s been days since the sighting of flying fox dying but there is no investigation.

    “We don’t know whether the province or the government will send a team to investigate what is going on here.”

    Police on Rennell Island also confirmed they received reports from locals about this extraordinary incident.

    “Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RISPF) officers on Rennell island in the Rennell and Bellona Province confirm that they have received reports from local people on Rennell island about flying foxes dying on the Island,” the Police Media Unit said.

    “Police officers cannot scientifically confirm the cause of death but it is suspected that this could be caused by the lack of food for the flying foxes following the logging operations on the Island,” the Media Unit added.

    “It is believed that Bellona island is not affected as there is no logging operation on that Island.

    “Police on Rennell request that the necessary Ministry send their officers to Rennell to assess the situation.”

    An Officer from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation Department stated that there is no formal complaint or reports raised to the Conservation Department.

    “We will collaborate with other ministries in respond to the report only if there is a formal report from those concerned or provincial executive,” the officer said.

    When contacted, Premier of Rennell/Bellona Province Willie Tuhagenga said the report is serious and needs immediate intervention.

    “From report, I know this is serious so both the province and responsible institution within the national government must team up to investigate the issue,” Tuhagenga said in Honiara, where he is currently staying.

    “I will discuss this with my executive and will come up with possible plans to look into this matter,” he said.

    Rennell island currently hosts Bintan Mining Ltd, an Asian owned company extracting bauxite from the island.

    A number of logging activities operated by Asians are also taking place there.

    Rennell is the world’s largest raised coral atoll at a size of 660 km².

    The island consists of raised coral limestone, dominated by Lake Tegano, a large brackish lake on the eastern half of the island.

    May-or nay

    City Mayor Wilson Mamae


    Honiara City Mayor Wilson Mamae has refused to concede to calls for him to resign.

    Mr Mamae was reportedly handed a seven-day notice signed by four councillors, including deputy Mayor Charles Aiwosuga, on Wednesday last week, demanding he resigned voluntarily or face a motion of no-confidence.

    In response, Mamae has issued a defiant statement claiming support from six councillors backing him, and announcing refusal to resign, which he says is a sign of guilt.

    Mamae says he will take “appropriate action against these opportunistic councillors” calling for his resignation.

    Six councillors are reportedly with Mamae in this saga: Robert Oge, Dorah Huapii Irofia, Eddie Siapu, Mostyn Saferio, Clement Terewauri and Luciano Sade.

    There are 12 elected councillors and to remove the mayor, seven councillors must support the motion.

    Councillors Reginald Ngati and Billy Abae are also said to be part of the plot to oust the Mayor.

    Emphasised in Mamae’s weekend statement are the following five points:

    •          The meeting of the Committee is only called by the City Clerk on the advice of the City Mayor. Thus, the so-called meeting of the Executive Committee on the 11th day of February, 2021 is not according to procedures that are outlined in the Honiara City (Council Standing Orders) 1999. As such, the notice was base on resolution of the Executive Committee Meeting which was unlawfully authorized.

    •          The letter of “Notice Requesting the Lord Mayor of HCC Wilson Mamae to Voluntarily resign from the position of HCC Lord Mayor, effective as of February 17, 2021” was unprocedurally issued to mainstream and social media without prior serving of the notice to the City Mayor. As such the notice was not procedurally served.

    •          The not-signing of the notice by Cr Mostyn Saferio, Cr, Robert Oge and Luciano Sade although named in page 2 of the notice shows the lack of integrity of the notice and as such the call for voluntary resignation of the City Mayor displays lack of support on the part of the petitioners.

    •          The Councilor for Mataniko Ward, Cr. Clement Terewauri signed the notice in the disquise of collective decision making. As such, he rejects his approval of the notice in disguise.

    •          The allegations that were mentioned in the notice were baseless and fabricated stories that holds no truth in its entirety.

    Mamae said Deputy City Mayor Aiwosuga, Reginald Ngati, Billy Abae, Leonard Solomon Sai and Francis Idu are unhappy councillors who have been undermining his leadership.

    The City Mayor takes appropriate actions against these opportunistic councilors.

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