Finger pointing starts

-MP Maneniaru blames slow Search and Rescue response for 27 missing MV Taimareho passengers

-If a search and rescue responded after 24 hours, what we expect is to find dead bodies: Maneniaru


MEMBER of Parliament for West Are Are John Maneniaru has blamed Search and Rescue for the 27 missing MV Taimareho passengers who are now feared dead.

Mr Maneniaru, speaking in parliament on Monday 6th April, said slow response by Search and Rescue is to be blamed for April-2 tragedy.

Twenty-seven passengers were reportedly washed overboard (Thursday night, April 2) by huge waves associated with tropical cyclone Harold, which was brewing south of Guadalcanal island that night.

However, Maneniaru did not explain why the captain and management board of the vessel allowed it to travel out with 715 passengers despite the cyclone warning issued by Meteorology for all ships to stay put.

The ship’s maximum carrying capacity is 300 passengers.

Speaking in Parliament on the motion to approve State of Public Emergency and for its continuation in the next four months, Maneniaru said the search and rescue responded after 24 hours.

He said if the search and rescue responded straight after the incident, some lives could have been saved.

“However, if a search and rescue responded after 24 hours, what we expect is to find dead bodies,” he said.

Further to that, Maneniaru said the system used to respond to disaster is inactive and some of the powers should be centralised to the Prime Minister to give orders directly during search and rescue operation.

“For example, when we asked the Patrol boat to response when docking at Tulagi, it could not do so because its anchor is broken.

“When we want to send drones to do searching, we have to get approval from an officer in the Ministry of Communication and Aviation. However, we couldn’t get the approval quickly because the officer was in church,” he said.

Maneniaru said it is time some of these legislations need to be improved and powers given to the Prime Minister to make decision in time tragedy.

In addition, Maneniaru said his constituency is not ready to deal with coronavirus (COVID-19) if it spreads in the villages because of lack of resources in the clinic.

“It is time government should focus on developing the villages to prepare for the COVID-19 if there is an outbreak in the villages,” he said.

A preliminary investigation will be conducted by Marine Investigation officer Joe Koavi on the incident.

Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA) Director Jonah Matau made the appointment over the weekend following the seriousness of the sea ordeal which saw high school student, girls and men and families members lost at sea.

The appointment of Koavi is in line with the Shipping Act 1998 and Shipping (Marine Inquiries and Investigations) Regulations 2011.

Mitau said the investigator will commence the investigation when the ship returns to Honiara around today or tomorrow because it is currently engaged in the search and rescue as well.

“The investigator will start interviewing the ship’s relevant masters, crew members, owners, shippers, passengers and witnesses and obtained signed statements from them.

“The investigator will also determine the status of the registration of the vessel and ascertain all its certificates and determine all other legal requirements applying to the vessel at the time of the incident, casualty, or even under investigation,” he said.

Mitau said the preliminary investigation will complete within 14 days or two weeks.

The debate continues today.

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