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    RSIPF arrests 23 suspects following incident in Western Province

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    Officers of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) in Western Province on 14 October 2020 arrested 23 suspects following an operation at Patmos Island in the Roviana Lagoon after an alleged incident of arson, threatening violence and malicious damage on 11 October 2020.

    Provincial Police Commander Western Province Chief Superintendent Mathias Lenialu says, “According to initial reports received by police more than 30 people went after a leader of a group within the Christian Fellowship Church (CFC) religious group. The leader of the CFC group and his family are now the victims of arson, threatening violence and damages of the victims’ properties.”

    “The victims escaped to another village for their own safety as the group of boys allegedly vandalized their family properties while they were in their house. The group of boys reportedly burned down the house of the victim.”

    “When police arrived at the scene of the incident the suspects did not resist arrest. It is sad to know most of the suspects are juveniles,” says PPC Lenialu.

    He adds, “The situation at Patmos Island is now under control with the presence of a police operations team on the ground. Police will have to make sure that all the suspects in the incident are arrested and face justice for their actions.”

    “I call on people of Patmos Island and Nusa Reregana in the Roviana Lagoon to assist police with information that will assist the investigation into the sad incident which has seen properties destroyed and people living in fear for their lives,” says PPC Lenialu.

    • RSIPF Press Release

    LEADER OF INDEPENDENT GROUP SUGGEST DISSOLUTION RATHER THAN EXTENDING PARLIAMENT

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    Hon. John Kuku

    The Leader of the Independent Group, Hon John Kuku calls on the National Government to promptly slam the door on its idea to extend the life of the National Parliament from 4 to 5 years.

    Hon. Kuku said that it is crucial the government objects to its own proposal, while it is at its planning stage, given that rationale against it outweighs those for it and the wide-spread outcry from all sectors of our society.

    He said: “The justification cited by the government to extend the life of the house is feeble, inadequate and simply outlandish if it were simply because of the 2023 Pacific Games.”

    “This is simply outweighed by the simple fact that the Pacific Games Council had already made the decision to move the Mini Games to 2022, which simply means that the writing is already on the wall, that a similar decision could be made towards delaying the Pacific Games.”

    The Leader said that while such an assessment is inconclusive, the matter is best left to postponement because to assume that our pacific friends will be willing to spend their money in our country when we are in Post-Covid 19 and recovery mode is misguided.

    “Any government must work in accordance to the rules, regulations and principles that are laid out in the constitution. The constitution is a national treasure and must be respected and guarded. Any amendment to the constitution must be to advance its principles. The proposed amendment is an extension to accommodate a two weeks event. By extending parliament for an additional year is delaying the right of the people to choose who should govern them for another year.

    Clubbing one’s way to tamper the constitution on a very trivial matter and reason is equal to theft. The constitution belongs to the people of Solomon Islands.”

    “In this regard, it is only appropriate that we take the matter by way of a plebiscite or referendum so that our people can have a say on the proposed amendments.” He said.

    The leader added that if we consider our regional surroundings, most of our neighbors had opted for a 3-4 life term for their legislatures, hence the idea of pulling it to 5 would seem bizarre at best.

    “The best option to take in order to accommodate what the DCGA wants: the SP Games 2023 without tampering our constitution is to have an early dissolution of the National Parliament rather than extending it for another year. This is the option I recommend and call on government to consider and make preparations now.” He said.

    -OLIGP Press Release

    CSSI Commissioner Congratulate Ms Wasia

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    Commissioner of Correctional Service Solomon Islands (CSSI) Mr Gabriel Manelusi has congratulated Ms Bernice Kamou Wasia for graduating with a Diploma of Correctional Administration from the Queensland Corrective Services Academy (QCSA), at the Correctional Headquarter, yesterday 14 October 2020.

    This professional development programme is an ongoing initiative embraced through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed between CSSI and Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) in 2018. This MOU includes twining partnership deliveries of professional training programs to selected CSSI officers and these programs provide access to international “best-practice” training and development opportunities, as delivered to all staff of the QCS.

    Speaking during a short graduation ceremony, Commissioner Manelusi congratulate Ms Wasia for successfully completing her program and graduating with a Diploma of Correctional Administration Certificate.

    “I recognised the value of the international partnership and I fully support the continuation of the Early Management Development Program (EMDP) with QCSA. The cross-twinning development strategies in these programs are benefitting for both agencies in terms of cultural awareness and developmental understanding needs” says Manelusi.

    He added, “I’m delighted to continue investing in my officers’ professional development opportunities with QCSA to ensure officers are trained in modern “assessed and evidence-based” practises to deliver effective and efficient corrective services to the Solomon Islands.

    Commissioner Manelusi highlighted that QCSA has played a key role in the professional development of CSSI emerging leaders since 2016, and to date 43 CSSI officers have undertaken the QCS EMDP, with 18 officers awarded the Diploma of Correctional Administration, Ms Wasia being the most recent recipient.

    Commissioner Manelusi further reiterated to those officers who graduate in all professional programs through QCS to put into practice, and continue to practice, what has been learnt during the duration of studies. I am confident in your ability to meet whatever challenges are ahead and look forward to serve with you to make Solomon Islands a safer place to live and work”.

    Commissioner Manelusi acknowledged his counterpart from QCS, Commissioner Peter Martin for recognizing the value of international partnerships and the support for the continuation of the programs.

    Meanwhile Ms Wasia acknowledged the CSSI Commissioners’ office for the moral support in this training programme and thanked the Australian Federal Government for funding the programme through the Office of the Australian High Commission in the Solomon Islands.

    Ms Wasia was enlisted in the service, in 2003 and currently she is the Supervising Director Human Resources Department at the Correctional Service Headquarter, Rove

    -CSSI Press

    Red Cross Successfully Held General Assembly

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    Honiara, 15th October 2020 – Solomon Islands Red Cross Society (SIRC) has successfully held its General Assembly on Wednesday 14th October, 2020. The General Assembly which is the highest body of the National Society is usually held after every two years.

    Attending the General Assembly includes the Patron of the National Society, the Governor General of Solomon Islands His Excellency Sir David Vunagi and Lady Vunagi, General Assembly members including representatives from Ministry of Education, Ministry of Home Affairs and Chairpersons from six (6) Solomon Islands Red Cross Society branches throughout the country.

    In delivering his key address in opening the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society’s General Assembly, His Excellency Sir David Vunagi expresses the unfortunate situation leading to the General Assembly being held in October. “By virtue of our Constitution, the General Assembly is the highest governing body of the National Society and which accordingly, “shall take place every two years in the third month of the second year”. Unfortunately, this General Assembly as you may have realised is now held in October, which reflects the challenge the National Society and the country at large is now faced with, especially in the ongoing fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic”, Sir Vunagi said.

    The Governor General also took the opportunity to thank the National Society volunteers, who have worked hard in ensuring those who are affected by the recent Tropical Cyclone Harold are assisted. “In addition, I am proud to have learnt of the great work carried out by our volunteers in responding to the needs of those who are affected by the recent Tropical Cyclone Harold at the beginning of the year”. He also thanked the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society volunteers for in their work of assisting the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in carrying out community wide awareness in communities within Honiara, Malaita, Western, Temotu and Rennell and Bellona provinces.

    The Solomon Islands Governor General in his address also calls for government recognition and support to the work of the National Society both through assistance as well as by helping to review the Solomon Islands Red Cross Act 1983 to provide for government support. “While the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society has had a wonderful relationship over the years and has been a great partner to the public authorities, the government is yet to fully recognise its role in providing support to the National Society”, Sir David Vunagi said. “All these are areas of concern to the National Society regarding the Act that I hope the Solomon Islands government will look at in helping to address by way of updating the current Solomon Islands Red Cross Society Act 1983”, the Governor General further added.

    President of Solomon Islands Red Cross Society Mockson Aaron in making his remarks also highlights the need for creativity and innovation as a means to move the work of the National Society forward. “Being creative and innovative means doing what we have always been doing, but in a different way. This is because, we are now in an era where just existing is not enough. We have to be relevant while at the same time be able to remain to perform our mandated role both now and into the future”, he said.

    The highlight of the General Assembly was the election of the new President, Vice President, an ordinary member and the confirmation of co-opted members who will also serve in the current board.

    Meanwhile, the former SIRC President, Mockson Aáron was re-elected to take on the President position while Dr.Jillian Tutuo was elected as the new Vice-President. James Lapoe was unanimously placed as the ordinary member in the new board after he was nominated twice and was unopposed.

    Newly confirmed members of the board include Richard Sakiri who is currently serving as the Treasurer to the board, Dr. Dunstan Aleziru, Shenthel Soaki who is the Youth representative in the board and Stanley Aupai.

    -SIRC Press Release

    World Food Day commemorated

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    16th October is the World Food Day.

    An international day celebrated yearly around the world in honor of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945.

    The celebration today also coincided with the 75th Anniversary of FAO.

    Theme for this year’s annual celebration is: Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our Actions are our Future.

    However, with the impact of the global pandemic, countries were advised to chose alternate ways to mark the important day.

    For Solomon Islands, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) is organising a talkback show over the National Broadcaster, SIBC from 9am-12pm today.

    The program will be broadcasted live and livestreamed on SIBC News facebook page.

    MAL Under Secretary Technical (UST), Michael Ho’ota said due to the state of public emergency (SOPE) and Covid-19 safety measures, the ministry opted to use radio instead of organising public shows like they always did for past events.

    “This is an important event that we have to commemorate as it is the only day in the year that we highlight issues affecting agriculture nationally and globally.

    “ However, with the impact of Covid-19 pandemic as well as financial limitations it affected the implementation of this important annual event therefore we have to resort to a low key but fitting activity to mark the day,” he said.

    The Program will involve speech presentations from the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock and speech from the FAO in-country office.

    Invitees from government line ministries, stakeholders, reps from donor partners, NGO reps and farmers representatives are expected to be part of the program.

    -MAL Press Release

    PM ANNOUNCES NEW COVID-19 CASES

    PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has announced new COVID-19 cases.

    These include four new cases in the Philippines and one new case in the Solomon Islands.
    These means we now have a total of three cases in the Solomon Islands and 22 cases in the Philippines.
    All the positive cases are our local students studying in the Philippines.
    The Prime Minister announced one of the four cases in the Philippines was a pregnant mother who just delivered her baby.

    Prime Minister Sogavare said both the mother and infant are in hospital and will be transferred to the Philippine Red Cross facility to undergo their quarantine.

    “The other three positive cases in the Philippines are already at the Red Cross accommodation to complete their quarantine,” he said.

    As for the third case here in the country, the Prime Minister said the person is a student that came on the repatriation flight from Philippines.

    He said contact tracing has commenced to establish the possible source of infection.

    “The person has been transferred to the National Referral Hospital Isolation Unit for further observations and management. Like our first two positive cases, this person does not show any signs of illness,” he said.

    Prime Minister Sogavare reiterated that this positive case did not come as a surprise because there had been mingling and congregating between the students at the quarantine facility.

    “We are therefore relieved that we only recorded one additional positive case, because there could have been more. Therefore, we thank our Heavenly Father, He is still looking after our nation and our students,” he said.

    Prime Minister Sogavare said the results of the upcoming fourth round of testing under our testing protocol arrangement will take place between days 19 and 21 from the day of arrival in the country, which will be between Sunday 18th and Tuesday 20th October.

    “This will give as a better indication on the status and the likely projection of the Covid-19 infection in the country,” the Prime Minister said.

    -PMO

    RSIPF warns communities of bomb blasting at Alligator Creek

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    The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team will conduct a live demolition of bombs at Hells Point, in the Alligator Creek area East of Honiara tomorrow (Friday 16 October 2020).

    Officer In-charge (OIC) of EOD, Inspector Clifford Tunuki says, “The Hells Point Demolition Range in Central Guadalcanal will be active as from 8am to 2pm tomorrow (16 October 2020).”

    “Fishermen, farmers, hunters and the general public in the Henderson area, Alligator Creek and Tenaru School areas are kindly warned to keep out from Hells Point while the Operation is in progress. Safe evacuations of people and road blocks will be enforced within these areas from east Henderson to Tenaru School bus stop.”

    “This is a normal EOD task aimed to reduce the amount of Unexploded Ordnances stored at the site to a minimum level,” says Inspector Tunuki.

    He says, “The Air Traffic Control Tower at the Honiara International Airport will coordinate the firing of each serial. An EOD Operator/Technician from the RSIPF EOD Team will be posted at the control tower during this operation from the actual times of the demolition and completion time.”

    -RSIPF Media

    SI PASSPORT RENEWALS IN AUSTRALIA CONTINUES

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    Forty Solomon Islands Nationals residing in Australia will soon have new passports valid for the next 10 years.

    Early this week, Chief Immigration Officer, Johnson Oge and Immigration Officer, Richard Manuroho were in Canberra to process passport renewals for Solomon Islands nationals.

    The two officers, who are based at the Solomon Islands Consulate in Brisbane, were deployed to the Solomon Islands High Commission in Canberra to process new and valid passports for SI nationals in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and South Australia.

    Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia, Mr Robert Sisilo was instrumental in making the passport renewal process for our nationals.

    Currently border restrictions are still in place between some states in Australia, making it difficult for SI nationals to fly or drive to Brisbane to renew their passports.

    However, travel restrictions have been eased for those that live in New South Wales, Victoria and ACT. This makes it possible for them to have their passports processed at the Solomon Islands High Commission in Canberra early this week.

    Sixty-four (64) nationals have already renewed their passports in Brisbane, bringing the total to 104. Many more, including those recruited under the Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP) and the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS), are expected to renew their passports at the Solomon Islands Consulate in Brisbane in the coming weeks.

    Nationals renewing their passports at the High Commission conveyed their appreciation and gratitude to the government for the timely deployment of the two immigration officials. The two immigration officials are now back in Brisbane to continue their work at the Solomon Islands Consulate Office.

    CHINA DONATES PPE TO WESTERN PROVINCE

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    By EDDIE OSIFELO

    WESTERN Province has deepened its relationship with China after it received 2,500 medical masks and other clothings in Honiara yesterday.

    Premier David Gina took delivery of the gifts from Ambassador Li Ming.

    “We will foster the friendship relations with Western province and provinces in China,” Ming said.

    “Hhe Chinese embassy is now working on the sister-province relationship between Western province and Fujian province, a prosperous coastal province of China, which should be a showcase for our sub-national cooperation,” he added.

    “We will support the pandemic response efforts by Western province.

    “We understand the Western province is facing some challenges on that because of its geographical location.

    “I am honoured to handover PPE to the people of Western province, including 2500 medical masks and other clothings.

    “China honours its commitments and never pays lip service when it comes to mutual assistance.”

    Ming said Western province is rich in forestry, fishery and other resources, China is the world’s second largest economy with huge middle-income population, and big market for the exports from Western province.

    “Solomon Islands have already been granted ‘approved destination status’ for Chinese tourists, and Western province will certainly attract more visitors from China.

    “The Chinese Embassy will encourage Chinese companies to participate in the infrastructure development of Western province.

    “I hold a strong belief that the potential of our cooperation is huge, and the future of our cooperation is brilliant.

    “I also look forward to opportunities to visiting Western province in the near future.”

    Premier Gina said he was so grateful to get the gifts as part of the province’s preparedness and response to covid-19.

    He added it is not a mistake to establish diplomatic relationship with China.

    CLIMATE CHANGE ALTERS DIETS IN RENNELL

    Garden sites at West Rennell are dug up by Bauxite Mining companies. What left are holes filled with water.

    FOR over 25 generations, the people on Rennell Island located 209 kilometres South of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands depended on their land, forests and the surrounding sea for food and on the rain, springs and ground water and coconut trees for drinking. But the environment of the island has changed over the years, forcing most families to turn to imported food to meet their daily needs.

    “The temperature level has increased significantly, and it has affected our gardens and sources of drinking water,” said Mrs. Christina Nasiu, a mother from West Rennell who has spent most of her life on the island.

    Dry seasons now last longer, scorching their newly planted crops and garden soil. They believe these changes to the climate have led to poor harvests and worry what it means for their futures and the availability of local foods.

    “Changes to our environment are worrying not only for me but for our communities because most of us rely on our environment for survival,” said Mrs. Nasiu.

    Mr. John Tingi’ia, a father from Lavagu Village in West Rennell, said he witnessed the increasing trend of dry seasons in Rennell and some of these seasons lasted longer compared to previous years.

    “There was this drought after Cyclone Nina in 1993 that remains in memories as the worst drought experienced in the island. This drought killed the trees and birds. There was also a new bird discovered here after this drought. Its features are similar to a hawk but it is smaller in size. It killed other creatures, like flying foxes,” said Mr. Tingi’ia.

    Scientists from the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have found that droughts and heavy rains are made worse by climate change and that increasing temperatures are depriving soil and plants of much-needed water.

    The Solomon Islands State of Environment Report (SISER) published in 2019 noted that climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the people of the Solomon Islands.

    According to this report, the Solomon Islands are experiencing the effects of climate change through trends of increasing temperatures, decreasing precipitation, changing weather patterns, extreme weather events and accelerated coastal erosion due to rising sea levels.

    The report stated these changes in climate have disrupted food availability by reducing production, which has impacted industries such as agriculture and fisheries and influenced how local people eat.

    Already many land-based ecosystems and some of the services they provide have changed as the planet gets warmer, increasing the potential for species loss and extinction as well as the spread of invasive species, which are not native to the local ecosystem and can cause harm in these new environments.

    The increase in global warming has also expose more people to poverty, with food and health systems no longer able to meet the needs of growing populations, making them at risk of food shortages.

    Dr. Melchior Mataki, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, says the effects of the changing climate on food security are evident by the increasing requests the Ministry’s National Disaster Management Office receives for food relief following extreme weather events like droughts or heavy rain.

    “Climate change is an additional stress over existing non-climate change factors, such as changing food preferences for processed food, people not involved in agricultural food production, destruction of land suitable for agriculture by mining and logging and increasing population,” said Dr. Mataki.

    SMALL ISLANDS BEAR THE BRUNT

    Solomon Islands is ranked 4th among the top 15 countries in the 2019 world risk index published annually by the German relief organization Bundnis Entwicklung Hilft. This index analyzes disaster risks worldwide and indicates which countries have the greatest need to strengthen measures for coping with and adapting to extreme natural events.

    The Solomon Islands’ vulnerability is exacerbated by its low socio-economic status placing it in on the UN list of Least Developed Countries.

    Rennell and neighboring Bellona Island are located within an active cyclone zone exposing these small remote islands to the greatest number of natural calamities when compared to other parts of the country and the region.

    Severe drought, slash and burn farming methods and logging and mining operations are stressing the fragile environment of Rennell.

    The Solomon Islands Meteorological Service (SIMS) records show the temperature of the Solomon Islands is increasing in the range of 0.4 to 1.0 degree Celsius by 2030.

    The SIMS noted that rainfall has declined in some parts of the country while increasing in intensity in other areas, causing severe flood damage to properties and the loss of lives. The report acknowledged that droughts are usually associated with the El Niño phenomenon.

    Mrs. Nasiu said because dry weather now occurs more often and for longer periods throughout the year, households have altered how they prepare their gardens.

    Families on Rennell traditionally prepare their gardens according to seasons, with planting occurring at the end of the year, said Mrs. Nasiu. By mid-year, gardens are typically ready for harvest and a second round of planting begins.

    Some families in Rennell have attempted to ignore their gardening patterns in response to the changing weather by preparing their gardens outside the regular gardening months, she noted. But these gardens yield almost nothing during harvest.

    In most cases, she says families then returned to their normal gardening patterns, even during dry weather. Yet the heat burned many of the newly planted crops and the ones that survived the heat are attacked by pests.

    In some parts of Rennell, families believe their soil is no longer fertile.

    Mr. Jorge Tauika, from East Rennell, said the size of taro and potato now are “very small” compared to past harvests.

    “Some families have also given up on planting other crops, like yam, because it involves a lot of work but does not provide a good harvest,” said Mr. Tauika.

    THE SHIFT TOWARD IMPORTS

    Coconut trees are integral to the livelihoods of the people on Rennell, especially East Rennell. The people there depend on these trees for food and drink, while coconut leaves are used for shelter, weaved into baskets and for fishing.

    In fact, the Rennell Island Tall, which has large and pointed fruits, is a renowned coconut variety that was discovered in East Rennell in 1964. This important tree is attacked by rhinoceros beetles and giant black rats – both pests new to the island.

    Dr. Roland Bourdeix, who conducted research on the Rennell Island Tall, noted in his report that coconut trees in Rennell are in a dire state not only because of rhinoceros beetles, giant black rats and putative diseases but also due to mineral deficiencies. (His research does not establish a clear connection between mineral deficiencies and the changing environment.)

    Hard works involved in gardening, decline in harvests, pest attacks and issues with soil fertility are issues that forced many families on the island to shift their reliance on staple foods grown locally to imports.

    That worries Mr. Tauika, who says imported food forces people to depend on cash, which is difficult for them to access on an island that has traditionally operated as a subsistence economy, with most families household consumption reliant on backyard farming.

    “Most families in the island are now becoming more concerned about their livelihoods over their environment,” said Mr. Tauika.

    He fears that once people start relying on imported food, with their gardens not providing good harvests and their sources of drinking water affected, people will offer their forests and land to logging and mining [companies] in order to access money for their livelihoods.

    This has already happened in West Rennell, where opposition to logging and mining operations broke down over time.

    Mr. Tauika said an increased reliance on cash on Rennell is a clear indication that diets are mainly imported foodstuffs. The SISER report published last year noted an increase in the trend of families moving away from traditional diets to cereals such as rice and cheaper imported foods like noodles.

    More than 80 percent of Mr. Tauika’s family’s own diet is made up of imported foods, he conceded, and he worries this diet exposes his family to illness.

    Local experts have not yet drawn a clear connection between the changing environment and the impact potential dietary changes may have on people’s health. But the Solomon Islands National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA, 2008) explains some of the impacts climate change has on overall human health.

    “In the Solomon Islands, specific diseases have been linked to climate and or weather patterns, including malaria, mental illness, malnutrition, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, micronutrient deficiency, parasitic diseases due to poor sanitation, tuberculosis, leprosy and non-communicable diseases,” the NAPA report stated.

    It went on to note that “… such changes to health and disease place additional burden on women and children” and that consideration of vulnerable communities and regions highlighted that existing health vulnerabilities are likely to be exacerbated by climate change.

    –Story and Photos by MIKE PUIA, a Freelance Journalist and Media Consultant. This story was produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN)

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