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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

MHMS plan to establish quarantine facilities at provinces

BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO MINISTRY of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) plans to establish quarantine facilities at the provinces...
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    Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani.

    MALAITA Provincial Government says it has endorsed and approved self-autonomy as part of its policy during an extraordinary meeting, Tuesday.

    “The resolution clearly stated that it is important that the awareness about this very important subject matter is carried out in communities within Malaita and elsewhere,” a statement from the province said.

    “This is to gauge collective views of the people on this matter and to ensure that relevant information is disseminated to Malaitans with clarity and the understanding of the matter,” the statement said.

    Last week the Sogavare government claimed that Premier Daniel Suidani’s announcement of a referendum on Malaita independence was “illegal”.

    However, the MARA Government reiterated its stand that there is no legal basis for any such undertaking to be called “illegal”.

    “This is because the intended exercise is simply to facilitate getting opinions of Malaitans, who are Solomon Islands citizens on a political question that has been around for the last 40 plus years.

    “That political question is ‘whether Malaitans want independence or a federal system or some form of political autonomy’.

    “The MARA Government believes that such expressions of opinion are clearly protected by the Solomon Islands Constitution and that the PGA 1997 is no higher than the constitution of the country.

    “For the PMO and DCGA Malaitan MPs to call this illegal is unbelievable.”

    The statement said the matter is a local matter and that the MARA Government believes that the spirit of the Provincial Government Act is to ensure that the provincial governments deals with local matters of concern.

    “In this case it is a 40 years old local matter that have been questioned time and time again.

    “Therefore the MARA Government is responding to a local issue being out there in the cold for nearly half a century.

    “What better ways can there be to go to the people and meaningfully deal with the question right there with them and in their midst?
    “It is time the government learn to move away from hiding behind outdated instruments of law that serves nobody and to facilitate the concerns of the people.

    “The premier of Malaita Province said that ‘when the need for change for the better come knocking on your door do not hesitate to open up and be part of the change’.

    “For sure conducting a survey on people’s opinion on a subject that is of concern to them is not the same as a call for independence.

    “That must be made clear.

    “There are those who hold the view that what the Premier of Malaita Province is doing is in effect calling for independence.

    “They even go further to make whole loads of other assumptions.

    “I must remind them that this is a misconceptualization of the intention of the call that was made.

    “There were those that went as far as saying that independence movements are always been bloody and long.

    “But the MARA government would like to say that a lot depends on the specific situations.
    “In many instances usually groups calling for the independence are minority groups.

    “In the case of Malaita province, it is the largest populated province making up almost a 3rd of the population of the country.

    “The MARA Government believes that the issue of independence can be addressed in a civilized and lawful manner as and when that has to be made.

    “Similarly there are those who even made assumptions that the MARA government is brainwashing the people of Malaita.
    “So far there is nothing to suggest that the MARA government officially runs a scheme to brain wash people.

    “People are free as then always been to think for themselves and make their own opinions and judgments on both private and public matters.”

    The statement said the MARA Government would like to state clearly that let history be our judge.

    It added MARA believes the many issues at hand and have been in discussions do not exist in absolute terms but rather in relative terms.

    “Therefore the assumptions one may have now in terms of Malaita developmental trajectory is just as good as ones assumptions and the sources of information one is exposed to.

    “This could include but not limited to the source of experiences one may have and the knowledge and school of thoughts one is willing to accommodate as part of their world views on development.”


    A mystery plastic bag and ‘few’ Chinese?

    Pacific Casino
    Photo: Pacific Casino


    THE mysterious plastic bag and its content is still at large as police continues its investigation into the ‘Chinese plastic window’ incident at the Pacific Casino Hotel.

    The two Chinese known to be behind the incident are currently held in quarantine. Police say they are brothers.

    However, police reports imply that there could be ‘others’ involved in this unprecedented incident, which public view as a deliberate disregard for the country’s laws and safety of its people amid the covid-19 pandemic.

    While police are in the dark as to what was contained inside the plastic bag, sources very close to the matter told Island Sun earlier this week that one of the two Chinese has claimed that the plastic bag contained “medicine”. No further details have been provided.

    So far, the two Chinese have tested negative for covid-19.

    In a media conference yesterday, police commissioner Mostyn Mangau said they will deal with the ‘brothers’ when they complete their quarantine terms.

    “On September 7 investigation commenced on this issue and police continued with investigations and assisted the ‘health’ to locate the person driving in and receiving the plastic,” said Mr Mangau.

    “So the person is also quarantined at our quarantine stations [one of quarantine stations] and after his quarantine we will deal with him for violating our quarantine regulation.

    “The plastic was passed through by the brother of the Chinese receiving it. This was by going through another room and receiving it through the ventilation.

    “It was picked up and when the Camp Management drove to the ‘pick up’ spot to check after being alerted, the Chinese escaped in a Hilux.”

    However, good thing a photograph was taken so the police and health people followed up and located the brother of the Chinese under quarantine and also brought him for quarantine said the Police Commissioner.

    “So the health has done testing [on the plastic picker] and it was negative. The police will deal with these brothers after the 14 days quarantine,” said Mangau.

    When asked for what was in the parcel, Mangau said from investigation before they can confirm what is in it.

    “What is happening at the moment too is Police will be also looking at obtaining the camera (CCTV) to look at what is contained in the parcel. So from the outcome of the investigation we can be updated on police findings.

    “Both the accused are brothers. Whether this incident was pre-planned, the ‘plastic picker’ going to pick up the plastic was through communication. Those are areas the investigation team will look at during the course of the investigation,” said Mangau.

    The ‘plastic picker’ drove beside the Pacific Casino car park and received the plastic from outside the wing declared a quarantine station cordoned and sealed off for public access.

    He did not go through the cordoned area. He received the plastic outside of it. He passed through to pick it up when it was thrown out. The plastic is said by police to have gone through from another room to another room before it was passed out.

    “What will happen is police will conduct investigation to look at how the parcel was transferred from another room to another room and then going out the window for the receiver,” said Mangau.

    The Police Commissioner said such action is totally wrong under the quarantine regulation.

    On whether there will be a lengthy penalty due to the seriousness of what the two brothers have done for the general public’s sake which could had gone worst, the Police Commissioner said they understand the penalties imposed under the regulations as it depends very much on the court.

    “The court will determine the weight of evidence provided before it can impose penalty on whoever breaching quarantine regulations. Police will try to complete its investigation and collect whatever evidence needed and then the court will decide on what it will do on this matter,” said Mangau.

    More join youSave



    THE Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (SINPF) youSave Retirement Scheme for self-employed or those in informal sectors has attracted 18,858 members to date.

    This was an increase from 5,414 members that registered since the launch of the scheme from November 2019 to 8th September 2020.

    Initially an average daily registration of 23 new youSave members registered per day has increased to 316 currently.

    The current net contribution of the total registration of members is $14.5 million from $1.542 million since the inception of the scheme.

    This was initially based on the total deposits of 40,126 with a daily deposit of 125 with an average of $38.43.

    SINPF General Manager Mike Wate told reporters yesterday that with the removal of the previous 10% tax and the reduction to the minimum $5 deposit, there was a significant increase in the number of daily deposits.

    “The number of average daily deposits increased to 239 per day, an increase of more than 90%.

    “The average deposit amount has also slightly increased even though the minimum deposit was reduced, to $38.71 per deposit from $38.43,” he said.

    Wate said this has proven that the previous 10% tax on airtime credit has been a strong disincentive to youSave members in using airtime credit as a currency for their youSave savings.

    Minister of Finance and Treasury, Harry Kuma approved and announced the 10% tax refund on 24th August 2020.

    At the same time, SINPF with support of two national mobile network operators (MNO’s), Our Telekom and Bmobile, reduced the minimum deposit from $10 to $5.

    Furthermore, Wate said with the strong feedback from new and existing members to use the youSave loMobile after the 10% tax refund to save for their future, SINPF team will be working closely with Our Telekom and Bmobile to reach out throughout our communities to secure more members.

    The SINPF and Our Telekom and Bmobile are now working on a concept to consider how youSave members can digitally draw their savings.

    Our Telekom Chief Executive Officer, Arthur Yen said it is a good advancement for the nation on the road for digital financing.
    Yen said they plan to expand the service to Solomon Power and Solomon Water.

    He said it is also good to see collaboration by both service providers working for common good.

    Bmobile Group ICT Manager, Reinhard Lal added they are working together for the nation to help people do saving.

    He hopes with more towers being built around the country, more people can access the service.

    Never forget the vulnerable groups in society


    IN any crisis, often it is women and children who suffered most.
    That’s because of their vulnerabilities and other weaknesses.

    More often than not, they are also the most neglected.

    The coronavirus pandemic that had brought the world to its knees has far reaching impacts than any other crises in recent history.

    Its impacts are felt in every corner of the globe.

    But it was its impact on our children that are more concerning.

    A survey Save the Children had carried out recently on the impacts of the pandemic on Solomon Islands’ children had found disturbing evidences (see report in today’s paper).

    More than 130 children aged 11 to 17 from four provinces took part in the survey that looked at how COVID-19 has changed children’s lives.

    It found:

    • 30 percent of children who responded said they eat less food during the pandemic.

    • 37 percent said they feel less happy than before the pandemic, and 36 percent feel less safe.

    • More than two thirds said their opinions were not asked for in their household during 
decision making related to COVID-19.
    Parents, as well as stakeholders, need to read the survey findings.

    Often, even parents tend to neglect their children when making decisions in times of crisis.

    Likewise, authorities tend to focus more on national issues, and neglecting these little ones in their decision making process.

    These survey findings offer a timely reminder to never forget our vulnerable groups in society in times of crisis.

    Call for more action on climate change

    People caring about the world and the environment

    INDUSTRIALISED countries are called on to take greater global action to reduce the impacts of climate change.

    Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Ethel Frances made the call during the Thirty-fifth Asia and Pacific Regional Conference (APRC 35th) of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) convened virtually from 1st -4th September 2020.

    Frances delivered the Country Statement on Thursday 3rd September on behalf of the Minister of MAL who was not able to attend due to other official commitment.

    Bringing the issue of climate change to the forefront of the APRC 35th ministerial meeting, Frances said the severity that climate change continues to wedged on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Solomon Islands and other SIDS requires joint effort from global leaders.

    “…our countries are now experiencing increased incidents and intensity of natural disasters destroying our people’s livelihood, loss of many lives and destroying our ability to grow our economies.

    “If no drastic measures are taken by our industrialised developed countries our Small Islands States will continue to live with these ugly impacts and bear the costs of adaptation and lag behind in delivering our SDG goals,” Frances said.

    “Solomon Islands therefore calls on FAO to advocate aggressively for greater global actions to reduce impacts and call on developed countries with high fossil fuel consumption to support our countries adaptation efforts.”
    Frances also used the opportunity and calls on FAO to continue strengthen the resilience of food systems and to continue to recognise importance of enhanced climate action in the agriculture sector as core elements in its Nationally Determined Contributions and implementation plans under the 2030 Agenda.

    “Suffice to say that effective implementation of adaptation and mitigation measures depends very much on availability of financial and technical resources in a timely manner.”

    “The growing rate of malnutrition, obesity and overweight in the region is a grave concern.

    “The first top ten countries with high incidents are all from the Pacific Islands. Our National Hospital records three to six deaths every single day related to non-communicable disease.

    “Solomon Islands therefore call on FAO to do more in supporting our region cope.

    “Solomon Islands is tracking behind in attaining its Sustainable Development Goals on ending poverty, zero hunger, and access to clean water and sanitation plus others and the current impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will retract any moderate progress made over the years and we fear worsening of situation in the years ahead.

    “Solomon Islands faced many challenges in ensuring sustainable food supply for our growing population because of our remoteness and geographical isolations, vulnerability to natural disasters, a fast growing population and excessive dependence on international trade and support.

    “These existing challenges are augmented by increase in spread of pests and diseases,” the Permanent Secretary emphasized.

    Solomon Islands delegates who attended the zoom (virtual) conference held at the ICTSU facility comprised of Frances, Undersecretary Technical (Acting), Michael Ho’ota, David Fatai and Rosalie Masu from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and FAO country Representatives, Jimi Saelea and Nichol Nonga.

    The APRC35 was hosted virtually by the Royal Government of Bhutan.

    Representatives from 46 countries participated in the virtual conference on examining the present situation of the region’s food security, with heavy emphasis on implications linked to the spread of the Covid-19 and its impact on food systems region-wide.

    More than 400 delegates from the Asia-Pacific region participated in the meeting, including representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia and technical experts in the food and agriculture sectors.

    The Regional conference, which takes place every two years, is an official forum where Ministers of Agriculture and other high officials from member states in the Asia-Pacific region meet to debate challenges related to food security and agriculture promoting regional coherence.

    The meeting provide recommendations and further guidance to FAO’s global conference on FAO’s work in the vast Asia-Pacific region.

    — MAL Media

    SINU VC’s work permit processed

    Dr. Ganesh Chand, SINU VC


    WORK on screening and finalising the work permit of embattled Solomon Islands National University (SINU) Vice Chancellor, Dr Ganesh Chand is going through the process now.

    Commissioner of Labour, Josiah Manehia confirmed this to Island Sun yesterday.

    Manehia said the outcome should be known soon.

    When asked about the illegal work Mr Chand did with SINU since last year, Manehia said necessary explanations will be tendered later.

    Riley Henao Mesepitu of Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration, earlier said the applications of the VC and other expatriate at SINU must meet the criteria before the Commissioner of Labour can grant the approval for their work permits.

    As such, PS Mesepitu said the VC and the other staff should not work because they entered the country under the permit to enter and reside and not to work.

    “SINU is not a regional university, but our university under our laws.

    “As such every company has to go through the same process, which SINU is not exceptional,” he said.

    A leaked letter on social media shows the Labour Division sent a letter to Chairman of Solomon Islands National University (SINU) Council, Dr Culwick Togamana on August 7, 2020 regarding the employment of expatriates at SINU.

    The letter stated that “A check through our office records and our files do not show that the expatriate staff, including the Vice Chancellor, have work permits for their employment by the Solomon Islands National University.

    “A check with the Office of the Director of Immigration has also confirmed that no Gazette has been formalised to exempt the concerned staff from the requirements for work permit,” a officer in Labour Division said.

    As such the letter stated this may mean that their employment by the University is illegal.

    Island Sun understands the VC and other expatriate are currently staying at home without attending to any work at SINU until their work permits are granted.

    We need our book allowance: SIG students in Fiji

    USP Laucala Campus


    The second semester for this year is nearly through, and Government-sponsored students in Fiji institutions are still waiting for their book allowance.

    Disappointed SIG students at Fiji said they need the ‘Book Allowance’ because monthly allowances cannot cater for school materials.

    To add to matters, SIG students point out that only October and November are left for school this year in its second semester.

    SIG students having waited since July express being weary waiting for their ‘Book Allowance’, because despite numerous previous calls have been made, there has never been any positive update or response.

    “Seeing that it is September now and we have not yet received our ‘Book Allowance’ is not good. We are asking for transparency on this matter as we understand that we are in challenging times and our economy is going down due to the negative impacts of Coronavirus [Covid-19]. Therefore, it will only be good if the government and ministry responsible be honest with us on whether we will receive book allowances or not, rather than causing us to have high expectations that will not be met,” said SIG students wishing for anonymity.

    “If they say we will still receive it then “when “? If they say no because of financial crisis faced by the Government then please do let the students know about it.

    “Waiting for ‘Book Allowance’ has become a pressing issue to SIG students, waiting for a very long time without clear information. Such situation of frustration also affects students’ learning.”

    Attempts to get comment from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) over this issue were not possibly yesterday.

    Meanwhile, in a letter issued yesterday to SIG students by MEHRD’s Suva-based Education Attaché (EA) Francis Tavava, he said: “Dear students,
    “I would like to thank you for your perseverance at this difficult time but I hope you have endured the spirit of patience with me.

    I understand students will be frustrated but your continuous support for each other is slowly seen and noticed. I applaud students for their positive attitude towards studies and I begin to see students striving for excellence rather than complacency.

    “I would like to strongly advise students living off campus to be cautious with any valuables that you have and a simple reminder to check your doors before slip in the morning after late studies.

    If you returning to your accommodation after class in the evening please call your friends accompany you. Laef hem difficult distam and pipol ba threaten or steal from students so luk afta ufala gud [Solomon Pidgin].

    “Allowance will be on Friday 11th September and further advise on spending. Please prioritize your rent and food first therefore, management skills as academics must be practiced. All the best.”

    With the EA’s email yesterday, SIG students at Fiji said there is still no update on ‘Book Allowance’.


    DPM Manasseh Maelanga

    Maelanga denies allegation of attempting to bribe Malaita leaders to topple Suidani-gov’t


    DEPUTY Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga has denied allegation that he carried a large amount of money to Auki on Tuesday night to lobby Malaita Provincial Assembly members to leave Premier Daniel Suidani.

    The Premier’s Political Advisor, Celsus Talifilu posted this on social media that the move is being made so that China can enter Malaita and force it to submit.

    Talifilu alleged that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has sent DPM Maelanga with orders and a big amount of Chinese money to ensure this happens as soon as possible to allow Chinese takeover.

    He said some Government members of Parliament from Honiara had informed Auki that Maelanga is on a mission to bribe MPAs for a no-confidence motion on Premier Suidani.

    However, Maelanga told Island Sun that he was shocked to learn of the allegations.

    “Rubbish,” he retorted when asked about the allegation.

    “I never visit Auki Township upon arrival but travel straight to my constituency in East Malaita from Gwounaru’u airport,” he said.

    The Deputy Prime Minister yesterday met with the Council, which consists of various leaders of the communities in the constituency.

    Maelanga will hand over school materials to Foumamanu Community High School today and visit the deteriorating roads in East Malaita following the recent rainfall.

    He is expected to arrive in Honiara on Friday.

    Earlier, Premier Suidani said his camp was rock solid because the population in Malaita is backing them.

    Suidani said this was evident when the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening wanted to recall Provincial Secretary Fredrick Fa’abasua and it led to protests in Auki.

    “How much more if the Premier is removed?” he said.

    Suidani said the proposed motion of no confidence planned against him died its natural death because the Malaita population is behind MARA government.

    He said is government’s numerical strength will be back to normal after other MPAs are expected to arrive from Malaita Outer Islands yesterday.

    There are 33 wards in Malaita.

    Speaker of Malaita Provincial Assembly, Ronnie Butala said his office has not received any notice of motion of no confidence.

    Gov’t remains committed to fight covid-19: PM

    Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare

    PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare says his Government remains committed and vigilant in its fight against covid-19.

    Speaking during his nation-wide covid-19 address on Monday this week, Prime Minister Sogavare said despite the criticisms, the Government is steadfast, focused, committed to protect our people and keep our economy afloat.

    “This Government will continue to take drastic and proactive measures to protect our citizens,” he said.
    “Our determination is stronger than ever and our resolve has never wavered.”

    The Prime Minister said there has been so much misinformation floating in the media and social media by certain groups and individuals that have a personal vendetta against the Government.

    “This Government has nothing to hide. In fact, we have been more than transparent in everything during this State of Public Emergency,” he said.

    Prime Minister Sogavare said his weekly national addresses, Government talk back shows, radio programs, public forums and open dialogues over the last seven months, has proven the immense work the Government has been undertaking.

    “We should be thankful that Solomon Islands still maintains its covid-19 free status, and we remain amongst the few nations world-wide that have yet to record a positive case,” the Prime Minister said.

    Meanwhile, Sogavare has thanked citizens that continue to support the National Government’s cause during these trying times.

    The Prime Minister also thanked all the front liners and their families around the country for their continuous sacrifice and commitment.

    “You all have shown true courage and patriotism and for that, I salute you all,” he said.


    Agovaka free, appeal case struck out

    Ahovaka: Photo by NPSI


    HIGH Court Judge Justice Leonard Maina has struck out the appeal against the Member of Parliament for Central Guadalcanal Peter Shanel Agovaka.

    Justice Maina on Monday dismissed and ‘strike-out’ the appeal that was filed last year by the Office of the Director Public Prosecution.

    MP for Central Guadalcanal and Minister of Communication and Aviation is now finally relieved of his burden.

    Speaking to Island Sun outside Court Mr Agovaka said that he is fully relieved and he will be totally freed from thinking about his case before the court.

    “I think it is a reaction of relieve from attending court and also the expenses of the court, it takes me about five years for this particular case,” Agovaka smiled.

    This is the appeal where the Office of the Director Public Prosecution filed to the High Court after the magistrate acquitted charges against the MP relating to an incident which occurred in 2013.

    Following the appeal filed to the High Court the lawyer representing Agovaka made an application for strikeout due to the delay in the filing of the appeal.

    On Monday this week the court ruled and finally struck-out the appeal and dismissed the ground of appeal.

    This was in relation to the case of the MP in relation to the incident occurred in 2013. Agovaka denied the charge and then a full trial was conducted.

    The trial was conducted and after the trial the presiding magistrate found Agovaka guilty of the charge of common assault instead and had him acquitted of the initial charge.

    Agovaka was the MP for Central Guadalcanal at that time and the victim who is one of his voters went to his residence to enquire about timbers to complete his family’s house.