Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela appears headed for Jakarta later this year
By Alfred Sasako
PRIME Minister Rick Houenipwela, once described by a Democratic Alliance Party (DAP) member as the “most photographed Prime Minister ever” appears headed on an official visit to Indonesia later this year.
The visit is being kept a top secret as it may still be at an embryonic stage. However, there are indications Prime Minister Hou as the leader of the SIDCCG Coalition is leaning more and more towards Jakarta for bilateral support on a number of pressing issues for his five-month-old government.
These include costs associated with Solomon Islands hosting the South Pacific Games in 2023, urgently needed medical equipment such a CT scan for the National Referral Hospital as well as the costs associated with the relocation of the National Referral Hospital.
When Island Sun raised these yesterday one insider said such issues would be left for bilateral talks between the President of Indonesia and Prime Minister Hou later this year.
No further comments were offered.
The visit, if confirmed, could trigger the simmering internal tug-of-war between those who oppose dealing directly with the Indonesian government over the West Papua issue and the Prime Minister who seems to have favoured open dialogue with Jakarta on the matter.
Only a few weeks ago he approved the visit to Indonesia’s province of West Papua by senior members on his staff.
Included on the visit is the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, John Usuramo as well as the Secretary to the former Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Rence Sore.
Radio New Zealand International reported last week that five members of civil society groups were on the delegation, which is concluding their two-week visit this week.
The combined Government-civil society delegation returns midweek.
An Indonesian government spokesman said last week the Solomon Islands delegation would be discussing potential infrastructure development that Indonesia could assist with in the Solomons, particularly ahead of the upcoming Pacific Games.
The spokesman said health sector cooperation was also up for discussion, in particular the need of Solomon Islands hospitals for medical equipment such as CT Scanners.
The delegation’s movements in Papua are being facilitated, at least in part, by Jakarta’s Papuan envoys, Frans Albert Joku and Nicolas Messet.
Mr Joku told Island Sun last night the delegation was now in Bali – Indonesia’s tourist mecca – on the last leg of the visit, which took in Jakarta, Papua, West Papua, North Sulawesi and now Bali.