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Western Province Premier, Wayne Maepioh
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Western province reaches point of no return in its struggle for statehood: Premier Maepioh

BY ALFRED PAGEPITU (GIZO) and ALFRED SASAKO (HONIARA)

WESTERN Province has now reached a point of ‘no return’ in its struggle for statehood, Premier Wayne Maepioh told the province’s leaders yesterday.

“We are at the crossroad and have now reached a point of ‘no return’ in our struggle for statehood,” Mr Maepioh told the gathering in his opening remarks at the Western province’s leaders’ forum being held at the Agnes Lodge in Munda.

The two-day meeting ends today (Friday). It was organised to report on the progress of the constitutional reform process on the Federal/State Government system in Solomon Islands.

“Western Province has witnessed the continuous assimilation of resources by the National Government at the expense of provincial governments, resulting in continuous deterioration of the level of services delivery to the people of this Province.

“That is now the challenge before all of us,” Maepio said.

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“It is our strongest belief that such status quo is uncalled for our desire to equally participate and be competent in addressing the prevalent issues of governance in our province can only be fully realised with a guaranteed completion of the constitutional reform exercise.

“There is obviously no shortcut,” he added.

“Whilst on that issue, I must, however reiterate that failure by the national government to recognise the importance of taking this whole constitutional reform exercise to completion sooner rather than later, Western province may not have much choice but to pursue the ‘Catalonian’ experience,” Maepio said, referring to the recent push by the Spanish province of Catalonia to be independent.

Among the leaders who attended the two-day forum were the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly Richard Tekifono, Deputy Premier Marloney Lopoto, members of the Executive, members of the Assembly and the newly enthroned Moderator of the United Church in Solomon Islands, Rev David Garunu.

Other members who attended the first day session are Team Leader of the Constitutional Congress Mr Jackson Piasi and his delegates, Mr Warren Paia, members of the Eminent Persons Advisory Committee (EPAC), Mr Thornly Hite and Mr Erick Ghemu, community and church representatives and community leaders and elders.

Premier Maepioh said the outcome of the two-day forum would be formally presented to the provincial executive before it is tabled in the full Provincial Assembly which is due to meet on March 27 this year.

“Once it is done we will present it in a form of white paper to the Prime Minister in the next week or two,” Maepioh said.

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