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Friday, July 10, 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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    Not if, but when

    Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Pauline McNeil.

    Ministry of health confirms coronavirus entering Solomon Islands imminent, steps up preparedness

    BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO

    CORONAVIRUS-19 (COVID-19) entering Solomon Islands is not a question of “if” but when “when” says the Ministry of Health.

    IN a press conference on Wednesday 4th March, senior officials from stakeholders and government ministries confirmed this fear, however assuring that measures being put in place will help Solomon Islands stand a fighting chance of overcoming this global threat.

    Pauline McNeil, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), said in terms of preparing for this, government is working hard to ensure that right preparedness is in place along with the right measures.

    “But the messaging from  the ministry is, there are certain measures in terms of what you can do at  home, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, cover mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing, keep your distance, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and avoid unnecessary overcrowding and also always cook your foods well cooked.

    “I’d like to say that preparedness is key for all of us, there would come a time when we need to put in place certain measures and that could include closing down of schools, closing down of churches.

    “So, these are the measures the ministry is working hard to ensure that the right measures are taken place at the right time when it is called for,” said Mrs McNeil.

    Minister for Health Dickson Mua said there is a high risk of COVID -19 spread at global and regional levels and the impact risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in Solomon Islands is also high.

    Mr Mua said with this, his ministry has been working hard to prepare for any potential entry of virus into the country.

    “My ministry is also working hard to prepare for the potential entry of the virus into the country,” he said.

    Mua adds, COVID-19 has been declared a public health emergency of international concern and has the potential to be declared as a global pandemic if the spread of the virus continues to accelerate.

    “As a consequence, we need to be ready in case COVID-19 reaches, Solomon Islands,” he said.

    Clezy Rore Minister for Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration (MCILI) said strict border controls should and must be maintained to prevent the entry of this virus.

    “I must stress the importance of maintaining strict border controls if we are to prevent the entry of the Coronavirus into our country.

    “Whilst the measures that have been introduced may cause some individuals inconvenience, the restrictions that have been put in place have been introduced in the interest of protecting the population of Solomon Islands during this global public outbreak.

    “Travellers are asked to respect the restrictions that have been put in place and not take out any frustrations they may have on Immigration staff,” said Mr Rore.

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    2023 game changers

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    Kukum campus of the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) where a Australian National University (ANU) team launched its 2019 Solomon Islands National General Elections Observation Report last Wednesday 5th February 2020.

    SIEC outlines cost-cutting priority measures for orderly elections in next NGE

    By Alfred Sasako

    THE Chairman of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission and Speaker of the National Parliament, Patteson Oti, has announced a range of measures that could be the “game-changers” in the 2023 National General Election.

    “…I would like to highlight only the main areas I consider to be the game-changers in the way the 2023 General Election will be conducted if successfully implemented,” Mr. Oti said.

    He was speaking at the Kukum campus of the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) where a Australian National University (ANU) team launched its 2019 Solomon Islands National General Elections Observation Report last Wednesday.

    “The priorities of the Electoral Reforms Strategy Framework (ERSF) can also be regarded as ways the Commission will be addressing the main findings of the ANU observer team as well as other international observers.

    The measures identified in six priority areas are intended to cut costs as well as to help improve the conduct of elections in this country.

    Priority one, he said, is “Combining the conduct of national and provincial elections on the same day.

    “The conduct of both the national and provincial election on the polling day of the 2023 General Election will be the first since Solomon Islands became independent in 1978.

    “… it will release public funds usually allocated for election purposes at the provincial and local government level because, with the change, we will be conducting only one election instead of 11 elections (general election, 9 provincial elections and one Honiara City Council (HCC) election).

    “This means that all elections for the national parliament, Honiara City Council and provincial assemblies will share the cost of election as the Electoral Commission will only have to engage once the venue as polling station and/or counting centre, temporary electoral staff usually recruited to help conduct the election, security officers arrangement (police officers and their equipment), transportation of electoral materials to and fro and the cost of administering the conduct of the election.

    It could potentially save more than $20million to the Consolidated Fund, he said.

    “It will also elevate the importance and credibility of provincial and local government elections now that the Electoral Commission will conduct them to international standards and subjected (to) international scrutiny,” Mr Oti said.

    The second priority area is changing the voter registration phase to a continuing daily process throughout the year.

    “Changing voter registration into a continuous process will have huge positive impacts on the election. It will solve many of the problems the Commission face(s) during the election year.

    “The Commission spent $48.4million from September-December 2018 for the voter registration process. There are two main reasons for this high cost. First, the time allocated for voter registration (registration update, publication of provincial (provisional) list, objection and omission and public hearing) is usually short and tight.

    “Second, because of the short and tight period, the Commission has no choice but to recruit more than 1,000 temporary election officials to manage the registration period to its completion,” the former diplomat and MP said.

    “A continuous voter registration every day, annually, means that there is no pressure for time and there is no need to recruit 1,000 temporary election officials to help conduct voter registration. We have estimated that it will only be sufficient to have a budget of $7million each for years 1, 2, 3 and $10million for year 4 (of the election cycle) if we are to do continuous voter registration. The change will generate more than $15million savings to the Consolidated Fund,” he said.

    “The change will also enable the Commission to publish the Final List of Voters the same day Parliament is mandatory dissolved. This is possible given that we would have more time to complete the inspection of the provisional list of electors, the objection and omission results, and the conduct of public hearing.

    “The time period between the dissolution of Parliament and the General Election polling day can also be shorten(ed) as much as possible. In other words, because we can now publish the Final List of Electors on the day Parliament dissolves, this means that the Commission can request the Governor General within seven days, after Parliament dissolution, to proclaim the day for the General Election, i.e. the first Wednesday after the 56th day from proclamation.

    The third priority is establishing SIEC’s Electoral Offices in all Provincial headquarters

    This will enable the Commission to:

    • Conduct voter registration continuously;
    • Conduct pre-registration of 17-years old by visiting secondary schools in the provinces;
    • More effectively clean out dead people in the Electoral Roll of a constituency;
    • Conduct voter awareness and/or vote education programs in the provinces and Constituency level; and
    • Help prepare the constituency in the province for a by-election (national or provincial)

    “The cost of delivering the above mandate by our electoral provincial offices is considered to be sufficiently covered by the additional annual $7million appropriation for year 1, 2, 3 and $10million for year 4 that we are asking Government in lieu of $48.4million budget we would normally require for the purpose of voter registration in an election year,” Mr. Oti said.

    Re-defining “Ordinarily resident” is the fourth priority area the Commission has identified.

    “The Commission has already commenced work in tightening the definition of ‘ordinarily resident’. This is a very important step to resolving the problem of cross-border registration. Notwithstanding a voter’s motive to register in a constituency, without the ability of the Commission to verify whether a voter is an ordinarily resident of a constituency, the problem of cross-border registration will grow and there is little we can do to stop this problem if we are unable to verify the claim by an applicant.

    “We are hoping that with the new definition, which we hope would be more concise and pragmatic for enforcement, comes with obligations for the new voter and an existing voter applying to register in another constituency to provide proof during registration that he or she is indeed an ordinarily resident of the constituency she/he is applying to registering at,” he said.

    The fifth priority is to introduce out-of-constituency voting.

    “Doing away with out-of-constituency registration will go a long way to help stop cross border registration.

    “On the other hand, introducing out-of-constituency voting will help reduce corruption during election, provide a level playing field for all candidates, and will also reduce campaign expenses that would normally be incurred by intending candidates because there is no longer a need to transport voters to vote in constituencies in the province they are registered at. Voters can vote for the constituencies they are registered at from designated out-of-constituency polling stations in where they live, either at the provinces or at Honiara city,” Mr. Oti said.

    Amending the Electoral Act 2018 is the sixth priority area.

    “There are a number of amendments that have been identified in the current Electoral Act. Most … are intended to bring clarity to certain sections of the Act.

    “There are also other measures in the form of offences we are seriously considering to curb certain practices, for example the practice of Voter Identification Card being used as a promise for the voter to vote for the candidate.

    “We are also seriously considering introducing other measures that would strongly discourage voters from taking steps that could be deemed to be an act of selling their votes for a benefit for cash or otherwise.”

    Debt choke

    Solomon Islands National University

    Private students top SINU’s unpaid tuition fees

    By Alfred Sasako

    THE Solomon Islands National University (SINU) is owed about $48 million in unpaid tuition fees with more than half the amount owed by private students, it was revealed yesterday.

    Insiders told Island Sun hundreds of students face the prospect of being turned away this year for non-payment of tuition fees, which have been accumulating since last year.

    The SINU management has been invited by Government Caucus to address what has been described as an “unfolding crisis” in the tertiary education sector. That meeting will take place next Tuesday.

    According to insiders, private students topped the unpaid tuition fee tally, owing some $28 million. Members of Parliament come in second place, owing some $12.8 million in unpaid tuition fees.

    Guadalcanal Province is in third place at $7.9 million in arrears, according to insiders.

    One insider told Island Sun that SINU has taken a hard line on arrears informing students of a number of measures Management has taken to deal with the growing problem.

    SINU has for example informed students that unless their outstanding tuition fees or arrears from last year are cleared, they would be denied registration to attend classes in the 2020 academic year. SINU has also introduced a new measure for new and continuing students

    “They must pay 60 per cent of the semester’s tuition fee upfront before they are allowed registration,” the insider said.

    “It’s tough but it is the only way to tackle what is a growing problem,” the insider said.

    Outstanding fees have exacerbated SINU’s financial situation, given that the Government has never paid up its annual operational and development grants in any one year.

    “SINU would be lucky to collect say fifty per cent of the grants in any one year. So tuition fees make up a lot for the shortfall in SINU’s annual budget,” the insider said.

    One other insider said the MPs’ unpaid bill of $12.8 million was in the form of commitments that MPs and their Constituency Development Officers [CDOs] make to students without honoring them.

    The insider said MPs found themselves in the same embarrassing situation last year when they could not clear their Constituency arrears. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources (MEHRD) had to intervene by clearing the millions of dollars MPs owed SINU in unpaid tuition fees.

    It is possible MPs might again ask the Ministry to clear the $12.8 million in unpaid SINU tuition fees this year. “It is possible this would come up in the briefing with Government Caucus next Tuesday.”

    Meanwhile it has been revealed that at one point East Kwaio Constituency owed SINU the highest amount in arrears, followed by Central Honiara Constituency.

    According to figures obtained yesterday East Kwaio owed SINU about $865, 000 in unpaid tuition fees in the second semester of last year.

    “The MP has since paid some but $349, 120 is still outstanding. Unless this amount is cleared, those students whose names appear against the arrears will not be allowed to register,” the insider said.

    In the case of Central Honiara Constituency, the amount reportedly owing in unpaid tuition fees is $669, 604. That is the amount that is outstanding,” the insider said.

    Check’em properly

    Renbel provincial Premier, Willie Tuhagenga

    Renbel premier calls on national government to do thorough screening of ships allowed into the province

    By Mike Puia

    In Tigoa

    THE Renbel provincial Premier, Willie Tuhagenga, has appealed to the national government, through responsible authorities, to do thorough checks on foreign ships entering the country.

    Premier Tuhagenga made this appeal yesterday reacting to reports that foreign ships entering his two-island province do not undergo medical checks.

    Island Sun visited Tigoa, Renbel’s provincial centre in West Rennell, yesterday and was informed of the high number of foreign ships entering the province.

    Logging and mining barges and ships moved in and out of Rennell island. These vessels find shelter at Lavagu Bay, Rennell’s main sea port.

    These barges and ships are engaged by logging and mining companies that are active in West Rennell to ship out logs and raw bauxite.

    The arrival of a ship to Lavagu Bay last Saturday night with four coronavirus suspects prompted the provincial premier to call for proper checks.

    The ship reportedly came from China. It also reportedly came through quarantine and customs check at Noro Port in the Western province before heading to Rennell but there was no medical check done.

    Tuhagenga said any foreign ship that comes to his province must come through thorough check including medical check on those onboard.

    “We are concerned that ships are coming to our island regularly which poses a health worry,” Premier Tuhagenga said.

    He said even domestic ships should come through thorough checks by responsible authorities to avoid the transfer of diseases and sickness.

    A local doctor, who was flown to Rennell on Monday to get samples from the four coronavirus suspects, Dr Pedical Togamae, expressed that ships traveling to Rennell via Noro should be banned.

    “In the future, it would be best to ban any incoming ships coming from these places (countries where coronavirus reached),” Togamae said.

    ‘Need to do more’

    Member of Parliament for Aoke Langalanga Hon Matthew Wale. Photo Credit; Pacificwin NZ Aus Pacific on LinkedIn.

    WALE urges government to watch incoming vessels and students in China

    The Leader of Opposition, Matthew Wale, calls on the government to do more in dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus in light of the unconfirmed reports that four crew members of a Bintan Mining vessel currently in Rennell, displayed illness ailments similar to the coronavirus symptoms. 

    Mr Wale further calls on the government to seriously look into the situation faced by our students currently studying in China.

    “Unconfirmed reports suggests that four foreign crew members of a foreign vessel that went to Rennell Island last week to pick up a consignment of bauxite owned by Bintan Mining Ltd are currently sick with coronavirus like symptoms.  

    “They are believed to be still on board the vessel and are said to be monitored.”

    “Reports received also suggests that this vessel was not cleared by the ports and quarantine authorities as required under law, before going over to Rennell Island, and this worrying,” says the Opposition Leader. 

    Wale said if this is true then this practice of evading the law is a serious loop hole which can undermine any efforts put in place to contain the coronavirus internally.  

    He said the ministry must act now to verify the reports and to quarantine the whole vessel to avert further threats, and if there are breaches of our border control laws, those responsible must be dealt with accordingly also.

    “Any potential breaches of our laws that threaten our people’s health and safety is no laughing matter.”

    The Leader of Opposition goes on to add, “I am also aware of at least 10 students currently studying in China and a lot more bound for China after we switched diplomatic ties. 

    “These students are our future and are now at the mercy of this deadly virus hence, it is paramount that our government considers their situation as well and put in place measures to ensure their health and safety.”

    OPPOSITION PRESS

    4 held in Rennell

    Coronavirus. Photo by Medical News Today

    Asians quarantined in mining operation in Renbel province suspected of China corona virus

    BY BARNABAS MANEBONA and ALFRED PAGEPITU

    FOUR men are being held in isolation in Rennell suspected of having the China coronavirus, it is reported.

    Reports reaching Island Sun on the ground say the four men display flu-like symptoms; “Fever, cough and headache.”

    Personnel from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services are said to be heading over to Rennell today to check these four men.

    A local doctor close to the issue, speaking to Island Sun on anonymity, says samples of body fluid and other specimens will be taken from these four men and sent overseas for analysis.

    The doctor cautions that at this stage it cannot be confirmed that the men have the China coronavirus, this status will be confirmed only when results are sent back.

    According to a press statement by the mining company whose operation in Rennell has seen this occurrence, Bintan Mining SI Ltd (BMSI), the ship came here from Qimudao, Shandong Province, China.

    “A chartered vessel, MV Expert whose local agent is Tradco shipping limited was chartered to load Bauxite at Renell mining operations.

    “The vessel departs Qimudao, Shandong Province, China on 17 January 2020 with total of 25 crews and officers on board.

    “The vessel was cleared via Noro port on 30 January 2020. Four crews of the vessel have fever as of February 1st, 2020 that we are concerned that it may be related to Corona virus.”

    The BMSI also adds that the four men and “the ship” are being quarantined.

    However, sharing concerns on social media, public feel that the whole crew of the ship should be quarantined given the fact that the coronavirus takes a couple of days before displaying symptoms and that the crew including the four suspects have been travelling together the past two weeks.

    One comments, “Given their interactions as a crew of the one and same ship for two weeks in their journey to the Solomon Islands, there is the possibility that other crew members may have contracted the virus, if it is truly the feared coronavirus.

    “So the health ministry experts going over there should check the whole crew. Do not be complacent, this is serious.”

    Island Sun understands that there are some factors that may contribute to the men’s condition which are independent from the China coronavirus, according to accounts by BMSI and Dr Pedical Togamae, that the crew had been working under rainy conditions the day they arrived, before the men fell ill, and that they had travelled across a climate gradient (from the winter in China to the tropical Solomon Islands).

    Travel ban?

    Honiara International Airport. Photo by Alfred Pagepitu.

    Health ministry suggests the surest temporary means of protecting Solomon Islands, all eyes on cabinet to decide

    BY ALFRED PAGEPITU

    THE Ministry of health and medical services (MHMS) has reportedly requested a temporary travel ban on incoming travellers from Wuhan or China.

    The million dollar question is whether government will endorse this.

    Senior officials within the health ministry, speaking to Island Sun in anonymity, say cabinet should view the situation as “gravely serious” because of the aggressiveness of the coronavirus and should not be complacent.

    They warn cabinet not to compare the current scenario with the recent Measles campaign, in which MHMS also requested a temporary ban on incoming travels but was rejected by the Attorney General before their submission could even make it to cabinet.

    Health officials say process to detect the coronavirus is made complicated by the fact that carriers do not often display symptoms for few days, hence would pass detection processes in airports or ports.

    Island Sun understands that cabinet met yesterday to deliberate on the submission by MHMS on the China coronavirus; a decision was yet to be made known when this paper went to print last night.

    Members of public have also taken their concerns to social media, some having turned up at the Island Sun office to express their fears and concerns that current measures may not be enough to keep out the China coronavirus.

    They also share the same idea that a temporary travel ban be imposed on inbound vessels and planes.

    However, skeptic health officials tell Island Sun that regarding their temporary travel ban request for the Measles outbreak, the Attorney General had turned down the suggestion citing several reasons.

    Loss of business to aviation, airlines and seaports, and such, were some of the reasons stated and other reasons were financial loss to SIG due to travelers claiming compensation for flight and travel disruptions.

    “AG also highlighted that our current legislation does not protect or make SIG immune to any compensation claimants or such, in such a travel ban scenario,” the health officials say.

    Island Sun understands that the meeting yesterday included Government ministries such as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Communications and Aviation, Immigrations, the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), the National Security and including UNICEF and WHO. The briefing was to ensure all responsible stakeholders are well coordinated and are prepared to respond to the emerging threat of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to Solomon Islands.

    Ministry of health is working closely with all health departments responsible for different clusters on daily basis. Daily meetings and debriefings are conducted to assess actions and monitor implementation of next actions

    NZ residence is an approved quarantine site: High Commission

    Tanakake kids looking on at the quarantine site.

    BY CHARLES KADAMANA

    NEW Zealand High Commission Office clarifies that the government has approved the residential compound at Panatina Ridge (Tanakake) in East Honiara as a quarantine site for returning NZ officials.

    High Commissioner Georgina Roberts made the clarification following concern raised by residents of Panatina over seven New Zealanders being self-quarantined at the High Commissioner’s residence on Monday.

    The seven Zealanders are part of a small number of New Zealand Government officials who arrived in the country on board a New Zealand Defence Force flight earlier this week.

    Report reaching this paper said Tanakake residents were living in a state of panic and confusion following the New Zealanders’ arrival.

    The residents said they were shocked late Monday afternoon upon seeing a convoy of police vehicles and private buses escorting what they later learnt were expats to the High Commission residential area – located inside the community.

    “We are living in a state of panic, shock and confusion. There was no awareness by Health Officials, Police or even the New Zealand High Commission office of the arrivals and that they would be quarantined here.

    “This is no quarantine site – whatever happened to all diplomats being quarantined at the hotels or the quarantine sites?” Chris Maelaua, speaking on behalf of concerned residents said.

    Mr Maelaua said that they only learnt of the arrivals from security guards – who themselves claimed to have been confused.

    “We were only told of this by the security guards who were manning the premises and the cleaners who were told to stop work.

    “We are still in a state of emergency and responsible authorities should at least have the curtsey of informing that community when they will arrive, how we should react in avoiding any unnecessary state of panic or fear like we are now facing,” Maelaua said.

    Fellow resident Ronnie Sade said that the distance between the High Commission Residence and their house is very close – describing it merely three metres.

    “Our house and that of which one of the quarantined families are residing at is not really far. We are only separated by a fence. Fortunately, covid-19 is not airborne otherwise we would all be infected, supposedly any of the New Zealanders carries the virus,” Mr Sade said.

    He however said that the risks are still too high, adding that many of the residents are continuously living in panic and fear.  

    Similar sentiments were echoed by other residents of the community – some even posted on social media, questioning responsible authority’s lack of public awareness, and calling for responsible authorities to transfer the nationals to quarantine sites.

    “These diplomats should be transferred to proper assigned quarantine sites immediately because we are indeed scared, our children are scared – the entire community is scared of the risks that the covid-19 pandemic may pose on all of us,” Maelaua said.

    Meanwhile, New Zealand’s High Commissioner said they regret that the community was not adequately informed about this before the residents returned.

    “We are aware that there was a degree of community concern about the arrival of our people at the New Zealand residential compound in Panatina Ridge on Monday afternoon.

    “We have consequently spent time this morning (yesterday), alongside Ministry of Health and Medical Services officials, speaking with all the immediate neighbours in the community. We appreciate the community’s willingness to engage on this, and we were pleased to be able to address their queries,” the High Commissioner said.

    She said they have been working actively to address the concern on 1st July and will continue to stay in touch with the neighbourhood, where the New Zealand High Commission has maintained the residence for years.

    “We are observing the quarantine guidelines set by the Solomon Islands government through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and residents are being closely monitored by health authorities,” the High Commissioner said.

    She said all NZ residents completed health screening before departing NZ and on arrival on Monday.

    She said the residents understand they are in quarantine and will not interact with anyone but relevant authorities.

    She recommends anyone with concern about covid-19 to contact the MHMS health line.

    Council of Trade Union eyes SINU

    Solomon Islands National University

    BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

    THE Solomon Islands National University (SINU) saga has now caught the attention of the Solomon Islands Council of Trade Unions (SICTU).

    SICTU says it will hold an urgent extraordinary meeting today to discuss the institution’s problem.

    “Demand for the removal of the Vice Chancellor of SINU is going to be the main agenda item for an ‘Urgent Extraordinary Meeting’ of the National Executive of SICTU to be held in Honiara today.”

    A Press Statement from SICTU yesterday said all the presidents and national secretaries of the country’s trade unions have been invited to attend the important SICTU meeting.

    “Tomorrow’s SICTU Extraordinary meeting will give the two Executives of the Lecturers Association of Solomon Islands National University LASINU, and the Solomon Islands National University General Staff Association, SINUGSA to provide the SICTU National Executive about the current SINU dispute,” issued SICTU.

    “LASINU and SINUGSA expressed serious concern about the way the Vice Chancellor is conducting the administrative and financial affairs of the University, describing the Vice Chancellor’s actions and decisions as reflecting outright nepotism, corruption, and coated with clear personal business and commercial interests.

    “The two SINU trade unions have already provided the responsible Minister and Chairman of the Council Mr Togamana with written details of actions and decisions that the two SINU trade unions view as outright nepotism to the Chairman of the SINU Council, Dr Culwick Togamana, who is also the Minister for Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology.”

    Vice Chancellor of SINU is facing allegations including abuse of Recruitment/Conflict of interest, VC influenced payment of consultants with incomplete work and financial mismanagement – abuse of procurement processes amongst others.

    Associations representing the lecturers (LASINU) and the general staff (SINUGSA) of the institution have since earlier this year called for the removal of the vice chancellor based on the allegations.

    Following an ultimatum by the two associations calling the removal of the vice chancellor within seven days last week, SINU Council Chair Dr Culwick Togamana had responded labelling LASINU and SINUGSA’s behaviour as akin to the ‘law of the jungle’.

    Togamana reiterated in his response that the institution has a process to follow in order to remove the vice chancellor, and asked both associations to adhere.

    He mentioned that he had already sent an email listing the allegations to the vice chancellor, who is currently in Fiji, asking him to answer to them.

    Togamana emphasises that the Council will have to wait for the vice chancellor to respond to the allegations before it can take any further course of action.

    Where are the 14 MPs of Malaita: M4D

    Malaita flag

    BY SAMIE WAIKORI

    AUKI

    CHAIRMAN of Malaita For Democracy has called on the 14 members of Parliament from Malaita province to explain themselves on the confiscated humanitarian covid-19 health equipment to Malaita province.

    Chairman Knoxly Atu said since the health equipment were confiscated, Malaitans are waiting to hear the position of their 14 MPs on the equipment.

    “The MPs must understand that they are the voices of the people in the province as they represented them into the parliament.

    “And the health equipment is for the health of the people they represented.

    “The fact that most of them are in the government is obvious, but what about the health need of their people,” he said.

    Mr Atu acknowledges the Malaita MPs from the Opposition Group who have raised their voices questioning the DCGA’s un-humanitarian act against the people of Malaita.

    Atu said M4D thanks them for their contribution towards the struggle by the Malaita provincial government (MPG) to reinstate the impounded health equipment for the people of Malaita.

    He describes the actions of these Malaita MPs from the Opposition who have spoken out as ‘meeting the expected trust and confidence rested on them to represent the people of Malaita as national leaders’.

    Sadly, he says, the same cannot be said for the Malaita MPs in the DCGA.

    The equipment was donated on humanitarian grounds by the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the people of Malaita Province to help fight covid-19.

    This paper understands that MPG has hired a local lawyer to initiate court proceedings on the ROC covid-19 equipment currently held by the Police.

    To date, the MP for Langalanga & Opposition Leader, Matthew Wale, and the MP for East Are’are, Peter Kenilorea Jnr, are the only Malaita MPs to criticise government’s action.

    8 months on, RSIPF still without boss

    0
    Acting Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau

    BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

    THERE is silence from the Government as to why there is a delay in appointing a Police Commissioner – eight months on.

    Secretary to Cabinet repeated the usual rhetoric to the paper that the appointment is ‘still in the process’.

    When asked how long will the process takes, he said that he cannot comment any further on the issue but only that it will go through various authorities to look into before recommendations can be made.

    He declined to comment on questions on why the delay was put to him yesterday.

    Minister of Police National Security and Correctional Services Solomon Islands Anthony Veke when interviewed in December last year said the process of appointing the new Police Commissioner for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force will complete end of January, 2020.

    However, Solomon Island is still without a Police Commissioner and today is July 1, 2020.

    Beware stimulus scam

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    Some of the men and women of North East Guadalcanal and East Central Guadalcanal constituency who attend one of the awareness conducted over the weekend at Ruavatu by officials from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Photos from Government Communications Unit

    GOVERNMENT warns public of individuals selling paper work for the Economic Stimulus Package

    The Economic Stimulus Package Awareness team under Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) warns the public and people in rural areas not to accept any COVID-19 stimulus package paper work support in exchange for money from individuals.

    It was reported over the weekend that opportunists are going around Honiara’s periphery with Guadalcanal province selling application forms to farmers and fishermen.

    “If you happen to come across any person selling stimulus package application forms, please report their activity to the nearest police post.

    “They are con artists who will take advantage of vulnerable people during emergency situation,” a statement from the stimulus package committee said.

    The statement clarifies that there is no application form for the funding, only a criteria guideline note has been distributed earlier providing instructions for applicants.

    “Applicants are expected to write up a simple project proposal at their own pace and cost.

    “Applicants who are illiterate should seek help from their community leaders or a literate person to draft their application,” the statement from the stimulus package awareness team said.

    The statement further reminds applicants in the provincial and rural areas to keep their proposals short by 4-5 page maximum.

    In the meantime, awareness for the selected areas in the provincial centres continues.

    Awareness talks has already been conducted in parts of Guadalcanal, West, Makira-Ulawa and Choiseul province.

    Next week, the team which comprises of officers from the Policy Implementation, Evaluation and Monitoring Unit (PIMEU) and caucus will visit identified satellite areas in Malaita, Western, Temotu, Central and Renbel Bellona Province.

    Due date for provincial and rural areas applicants has been extended to July 24.

    –GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION UNIT

    NPF Covid-19 exemption ends today

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    Members queueing infront of Solomon Islands National Provident office at first floor of Anthony Saru Building to withdraw their funds under the covid 19 exmption on Tuesday 2nd June 2020.

    By EDDIE OSIFELO

    THE Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (SINPF) three months COVID-19 exemption orders to allow members to withdraw their money ends at 4.30pm today.

    Thousands of people have withdrawn their allocations since SINPF opened its doors on April 1.

    SINPF Managing Director, Michael Wate said he will provide the details or the total money given out to members when the deadline ends today.

    As of June 5, 2020, 16,135 members were paid with a total of $77.8M.

    However, the number of the members and money expended is likely to increase at the deadline.

    Under the criteria:

    1.            A sum of $5,000 will be made available to members under the age of 50 years, who are temporarily laid off, or stand down due to the effect of COVID-19, or employed as of 31st December 2019, and are residing within the ‘emergency zone’. Members whose balances are below five thousand dollars are to be paid 50 percent of their balances.

    2.            Laid-off members due to COVID-19 be waivered three months waiting period and be paid 1/3 of their contributions or in full if their balances are less than $10,000. Their remaining Balance will be paid according to SINPF schedule.

    3.            Members aged 50 years and above to withdraw up to 20 percent of their contributions should they wish to or else, they can elect to withdraw in full.

    Wate earlier said it’s a learning experience as a first of its kind to happen to SINPF Board since its existence in 1976.

    Wate said even during the social unrest in 1998-2003 the Minister of Finance or the government then did not provide exemption orders for members to access part of their NPF contribution.

    He said such payout to members will go down in SINPF Board 44 years’ history.

    “SINPF will learn from this experience and in the future Fund will have a precedence to lean on when such crisis arises,” he added.

    While focusing on covid-19, normal health services will still be delivered: McNeil

    Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Pauline McNeil.

    BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO

    WHILST the Ministry of Health is focusing its work on coronavirus-19 Preparedness and Response Plans, normal health services will still be discharged.

    “While we are working hard on our preparations and response plans on covid-19 our other core business of health has to continue,” said Pauline McNeil Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health.

    McNeil said the ministry’s normal health services or other core programmes will still run. Like NCD is still a major issue in the country but their team is also ensuring that it is attend as according to their Annual Operation Plan (AOP) activities for this year

    “So, we have the AOP 2020 but at the same time we have the Preparedness and Response plan (PRP) to also implement so actually we have two plans to implement back to back for this year.

    “So, in terms of NCD its programme is ongoing in terms of trainings at the provinces, our other key programs on RWASH is still running, so, as the rural water supplies and sanitation is running in provinces and immunisation programs is still continuing.

    “So we don’t lose sight on those core programmes of the ministry of health, it is constant like I said we have two plans to work on back to back and that’s our normal AOP and on top of that  we have to also ensure the activities of PRP delivered at the same time,” she said.

    Jimmy Rodgers, Permanent Secretary to Prime Minister, adds that the Ministry Health had briefed caucus on covid-19.

    “I would like to point out is this covid-19 outbreak had drawn one silver lining and the silver lining is that it has given health resources now to develop every provincial health services.

    “Facilities in provincial hospitals and Area Health Centres (AHC) have been supported by ministry of health with the money coming in to support our covid response.

    “Every health facilities at the provincial level both government as well as run by churches for the first time will be slowly improved so the country will have much better facility.

    “We cannot thank covid for that but there is a silver lining that all disaster had a little benefit and so covid19 gave a little opportunity to improve health services int the country,” he said.

    The above-mentioned statements were made at the latest radio talk back show in Honiara.

    Law of the jungle

    Dr Culwick Togamana

    -Togamana hits back at lecturers and staff of SINU that process must be followed to remove Vice Chancellor Chand

    -Lectures and Staff of SINU demand removal of VC

    By EDDIE OSIFELO

    SOLOMON Islands National University (SINU) Council cannot meet to decide the future of Vice Chancellor Dr Ganeshwar Chand until he responds to allegations levelled against him, Council Chair Culwick Togamana says.

    The Lecturers Association of the Solomon Islands National University (LASINU) is demanding the termination of Mr Chand. Their demand is stipulated in a seven-day letter which lapses today.

    The letter was signed by LASINU and supported by SINU General Staff Association (SINUGSA), and was submitted last Wednesday, June 24, 2020 with a bulk of evidence, claims and allegations against VC Chand.

    Allegations against him include abuse of Recruitment/Conflict of interest, VC influenced payment of consultants with incomplete work and financial mismanagement – abuse of procurement processes amongst others.

    Chair Togamana however has spoken out against the two associations (LASINU and SINUGSA) saying they do not have the mandate to remove the vice chancellor.

    Mr Togamana said only the Council has the mandate to remove the VC provided he responds to the allegations levelled against him.

    “I have already sent the allegations to him through an email as he is currently in Fiji.

    “We have to follow the process first to allow the VC to response before the Council can meet and decide,” he said.

    Togamana said there is a process to follow and not the law of the jungle which the two Unions seem to be behaving.

    As per Chair-SINU Council request for their investigation into the allegation, members of the two associations met on June 23 at 4.40 pm at the Kukum Campus Lecturer Theatre and made the following recommendations;

    1. That with the strong evidence presented herein, we demand the termination of the Vice Chancellor (VC) to be made no later than seven (7) working days from the date of submission of these evidences.
    2. That failure to adhere to point (1), members of our two associations will withdraw labour forthwith”.

    Spokesperson for LASINU had told the Solomon Star over the weekend that this is the second letter they submitted to the Council Chair on very much the same issues.

    “The second letter was in response to the request from the Chair of the Council demanding both associations to provide evidence to support our claims against the VC,” the spokesperson said.

    LASINU and SINUGSA have requested in their letter dated February 28, 2020 that Togamana must set up an independent committee to investigate the allegations.

    They however learnt with much disappointment that Togamana was reluctant to initiate an independent committee to conduct an investigation and instead requested that they provided evidence to prove their allegations.

    The two associations were also told by the chair they should follow the right process that can warrant the VC’s termination.

    “This is uncalled for and perhaps shows Chair- SINU Council’s lack of interest in good governance, transparency and accountability across the university whilst continues to be protective of VC’s unbecoming actions,” the spokesperson said.

    It is more likely the students’ association will join forces in support of the submissions as well, the spokesperson added.

    Preparation to quarantine next batch of incoming passengers on schedule

    Solomon Airlines airbus

    BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO

    PREPARATION work at the Institutional Quarantine Facilities prior to the arrival of 200-plus Solomon nationals is ongoing and on schedule.

    Chairman of IQF Karl Kuper assured the nation this during a radio talkback show on 28th June.

    “Preparation on schedule to accommodate nationals who are going to be repatriated as well as additional nationals who are still on their way.

    “Numbers increase on this next repatriate exercise so we have secured additional facilities and my officers are working very hard in trying to putting up things as comfortable as possible,” he said.

    Kuper reminded those who will be repatriated and are coming into these facilities to comply with the rules and regulations on these facilities “because these sites are first line of defense on covid in our country”.

    “We want everyone to maintain order inside these facilities and adhere to the regulations that govern it,” he said.

    Kuper adds,  “for Gizo facility the work was completed and they now are waiting for it to be included in the orders or gazette so that it will be formerly recognized as quarantine station. And for the Noro it is near completion.”

    Genexpert to the provinces

    GeneXpert Machine

    BY MAVIS NISHIMURA PODOKOLO

    THE ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is working hard to make sure the provinces have GeneXpert machines.

    The GeneXpert machine is the device used to test for covid-19.

    Speaking in a radio talkback show on 28th June, permanent secretary for Health and Medical ministry, Mrs Pauline McNeil implied that the border provinces will be the first to be introduced to the machine, followed by Malaita and Makira-Ulawa provinces.

    It is not clear what MHMS’s plans are for the remaining provinces.

    “We are trying to reach out to the provinces in terms of GeneXpert machines,” McNeil said in the SIBC talkback show.

    “Our technical working group left on Friday and the work is to use GeneXpert machines in our provinces.

    “This is because the machine is low tech, it’s not resource-intensive and already the capacity is there for sustainability

    “So, we are looking at Gizo, Taro and Helena Goldie hospital because of the border and then we will reach out to Kilufi and Kirakira for GeneXpert roll out.

    “So, as we speak my team from the ministry is gearing up today to go to Gizo to look at the set up at the Gizo Hospital and then during the week on Wednesday another team will leave for Kilufi to assess the set up in Kilufi,” said McNeil.

    She also adds that while MHMS is working hard in response to the coronavirus-19 threat, they have not lost sight of their essential services to the nation.

    “We are working to ensure we maintain our essential services so that we maintain our status on some of our health indicators,” said McNeil.

    The GeneXpert machine is a device which was originally used to detect tuberculosis and drug-resistant bacterial strains. Due to its fast-results, easy-to-handle and accuracy attributes, it has been readjusted to test for covid-19 approved by world health authorities.

    New Zealand, Australia and the World Health Organisation (WHO) joined hands to make the highly sought after GeneXpert PCR testing cartridges available for Solomon Islands in early May this year.

    The cartridges have been specifically re-designed for covid-19 testing.

    It is understood Solomon Islands has 10 GeneXpert machines, including in some provinces, which are normally used to detect tuberculosis.