BY SAMIE WAIKORI
MALAITA provincial government has engaged legal representation to deal with government’s hold-up of covid-19 medical equipment donated to the province by Taiwan.
Lasting week police seized the medical equipment bound for Malaita province. Government was quick to sanction this move, citing geopolitical rhetoric that the Republic of China (Taiwan) was poaching in a country which recognised the People’s Republic of China.
In a government statement early this week, it described the seized consignment as having ‘suspicious nature surrounding the importation of the cargoes’.
Malaita provincial government has come out clarifying that the equipment had been the second batch to humanitarian assistance by Taiwan under its global counter-covid19 programme which was offered to any country including those which do not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Malaita had received the first batch and were looking forward to receiving the second when it was seized by police on Thursday last week.
Thus, with the Chinese-backed government and police against it, Malaita has sought to get justice with the help of legal representation.
Mr Richard Olita, a Malaitan man whose postal address the consignment had been sent through, confirmed Malaita provincial government’s course of action yesterday.
He said the purpose for engaging a legal representative to deal with the matter is to understand reasons on which national government had confiscated the equipment.
Olita confirmed that the first consignment also came under his address and has already been received, and that the impounded equipment was the second batch.
A statement from the Malaita provincial government (MPG) said while police is continuing its investigations into the matter, MPG and Mr Richard Olita are engaging a legal representative to act on behalf of the parties regarding the confiscated ROC humanitarian support covid-19 equipment.
“It is regrettable that we have to come this far on this issue. However, MPG would like to make further clarifications on some of the issues raised by the police and then we will leave the matter in the hands of our legal representative to deal with.
“Firstly, the equipment is part of the overall humanitarian support given by Taiwan to Malaita province under its global covid-19 response programme.
“The programme also includes support to countries that do not have diplomatic relationship with Taiwan. After all it is humanitarian support.
“It is through the programme that Malaita province seeks humanitarian assistance from and gladly received the kind support from Taiwan.
“The grounds for the support were based on the big population of Malaita province and the high influx of people that have gone to their villages under the government’s repatriation advice.”
Thus, the statement said based on that there is need to have extra covid-19 equipment and support to the province.
“Secondly the use of Richard Olita’s address was for logistical convenience and that the understanding would be the equipment will eventually be given to MPG.
“There is nothing for anyone to be suspicious about. After all these are the same equipment or similar ones donated to Solomon Islands by other donors including PRC as has been reported in the media.
“In any case there is already 5000 surgical masks of the Taiwanese support received in Malaita province.
“Thirdly the issue of diplomatic pouch as raised by the police and MFAET must be understood its correct context.
“Since it’s a humanitarian support from the government of Taiwan, it has to come from the ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Taiwan used the diplomatic pouch for its purpose to inform DHL that the consignment is from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign.
“They have not hid anything regarding the support and they have not asked for any special immunity from SIG knowing there are no longer diplomatic ties between SI and ROC.
“There was no special treatment and immunity given to the consignment as the police and MFEAT would like to think.
“In fact MPG have gladly paid for the import duties already and have not bother to apply for any duty exceptions as may be suspected by the police.
“We urge the police to handle issues like this with some level of sensitivity and to reach out to Richard Olita and the provincial Government so that we all can help with the investigation as stated,” it said.