Government to meet with Malaita premier to dialogue over warning letter by ministry

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MINISTRY of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening will meet with Malaita Province to iron out differences regarding the warning letter issued to Premier Daniel Suidani on April 30.

Minister for Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening Rollen Seleso had said in his letter to premier Suidani that Malaita provincial government faces suspension unless the Premier stops contravening the Provincial Government Act 1997 through his actions.

Two Members of Provincial Assembly and Provincial Secretary of Malaita province are booked to travel to Honiara today to join up with Premier Suidani.

Suidani said currently he is not aware of the agenda of the meeting.

However, he said because the invitation comes from the Ministry, he has decided to join the meeting.

Suidani said the issue between both parties are well covered in the media when Island Sun reporter, Alfred Sasako broke the story on Tuesday, May 5 of the warning letter issued by Minister Seleso. Premier Suidani has already responded to Seleso’s letter.

In his letter dated April 30, the Minister accused Premier Suidani of undertaking two overseas trips without the Minister’s knowledge or approval.

As well, Minister Seleso accused Premier Suidani of having “intentionally refused to attend the recent COVID-19 Dialogue in Honiara, which “shows the Malaita Provincial Government is not prepared to work with the National Government in the fight against COVID-19.

“This gives rise to a security issue for Solomon Islands. In light of the above and if in the event that this does not cease, I will be recommending to the Hon Prime Minister to exercise his powers to suspend the Malaita Provincial Government during the State of Public Emergency,” the Minister said.

In a tit-for-tat response, Premier Suidani said “I am obliged to inform you that the claims in the letter are incorrect at its best, and intentionally false and malicious at worst.

Furthermore, the threats that are contained in the letter are of a grave nature, and based on my legal advice, amount to actions planned outside of the law,” Premier Suidani said.

“I can only assume that your letter has benefited from the advice of the Attorney General and has been issued with the blessing of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I therefore need to assume that this is the position of the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA).

“For this letter, after passing through the Attorney General and the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to retain such a degree of misrepresentation of fact and misreading of law leads me to conclude that these inclusions are deliberate,” he said.

Premier Suidani said the letter was a “political attack rather than a good faith expression” in promoting constitutional governance and genuine desire for public order.
“I will respond to your claims point by point, but in summary I wish to state that they lack basis.”

“It is a very unfortunate attack on your part, especially given our respective cultural identities and the history of our peoples.

The Premier said:

“This is an attack that appears to amount to an attempt at incitement between our peoples. If indeed this attack is a position of DCGA then we are facing a grave situation in which the national government DCGA is promoting political attacks in such a way as to attempt to incite conflict between the different peoples of Solomon Islands.

“As such, I do view your letter itself as undermining public law order and the integrity of our dear nation Solomon Islands,” he warned.

The Premier dismissed claims of unauthorized, unsanctioned or unapproved travel against him, saying he was not a public servant to be held to account for any travels he had undertaken.

“The regulation cited in your letter, Order 14 of the Provincial Assembly Members (Salaries and Allowances) Determination 2015 concerns entitlement for allowance if a provincial member travels overseas. In other words, it applies to a provincial member including a premier only when they wish to receive an overseas travel allowance. In such circumstances the Order applies and the Minister’s permission to travel must be obtained.

“Therefore, to say in your letter that my overseas travel breached Order 14 is not only misleading but a clear misinterpretation of this Order. I did not receive travel allowance for these travels,” Premier Suidani said.
He claimed his office has informed the Ministry as a courtesy of the two foreign trips he undertook last December and again in March this year.

Premier Suidani also defended his absence from the recent Premiers’ Dialogue on the COVID-19 pandemic in Honiara, rejecting accusations that his absence was “an act of insubordination.”

“In fact, the decision to send the Deputy Premier was an integral part of my shared leadership style. The Malaita Provincial Government will continue to share leadership responsibility like this in the future as appropriate,” he said.

Behaving a bit like President Trump in saying one thing today and quite the opposite the next day, Premier Suidani said his stance on the fight against the intrusion of the coronavirus “has been consistently about protecting the people of Malaita from the virus.”

“I would go so far as to say that I have been more pro-active and constructive in leading a response than many other provincial and parliamentary leaders.

“Even my statements regarding caution about imported PPE from (the) People’s Republic of China have been clearly made to support public health, not to undermine it,” he said.

On the State of Public Emergency, Premier Suidani said it must be made clear that the powers of the Prime Minister under the COVID-19 Regulation are specific to COVID-19 circumstances, which does not include suspending or terminating an elected provincial government.