Parliament reaches out to Eastern Solomons

A recent historical and successful visit by three Parliamentary Standing Committees to the eastern borders of Solomon Islands uncovered the seriousness of police security and deterioration, poor health services and the increasing threat of sea level rise on low lying Islands in this remote part of our country.

This visit was highly commended by rural Temotuans.

Towards the end of September ( 23rd Sept – 3rd Oct 2017), the three Parliamentary Standing Committees: Police, National Security and Correctional Services Committee; the Health and Medical Services Committee and the Environmental and Conservation Committee conducted three separate inquiries based on their terms of references in Lata.

For the Police, National Security and Correctional services (PNS&CS), the recent inquiry was their second to be conducted after the 2015 inquiry done in the western borders. The purpose was to hear views on border security and police integrity deterioration from members of those communities who come to present their views as witnesses.

Acting Chairman of the Police Committee, Hon. Mathew Wale, told eastern border witnesses that the hearings allowed Parliament to engage with the public, thus, this process is significant to the Members of Parliament and the institution.

“We would like to hear your thoughts on border security and police integrity in this eastern part of the country.” Hon Wale said.

Witnesses in the eastern regions of Temotu willing shared their observations and provided the Committee with adequate information with evidences concerning their border with Vanuatu.

Like in the Western border, people of the outer islands of Temotu have informed the Committee that the issue of border security and threat and its impacts is so imminent and complex, consequently as a result of a chain of other issues.

Many recommendations were also made by various sectors like the biosecurity, customs, police and immigration officers who were also present at the hearings.

The committee will consider these in its report to Parliament when completed.

For the Environmental and Conservation Committee (ECC), the recent inquiry in Temotu was their third formal inquiry after its dialogue with the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Environment and first provincial inquiry on Malaita, in Langalanga lagoon and Lau lagoon.

As per the ECC TOR, the hearing in Lata was also to hear from the eastern islanders of Temotu on Impacts of Sea Level Rise due to climate change on their low lying coastal and atoll communities. Majority of Islands in this region are low lying.

Chairman of the Environment Committee, Hon. Culwick Togamana, explained to the witnesses that the inquiry was part of his Committee’s initiative to gather information from relevant stakeholders regarding sea level rise and its impact in the Solomon Islands due to climate change.

It was evident from the witnesses’ contributions that they were really affected from this global threat of sea level rise.

A site visit to the low lying coastal village of Tuo in the Reef Islands by the Environment Committee further justified the witnesses’ sentiments during the hearing in Lata.

Their cemetery was now covered with sea water and remaining clothes and bones of their diseased family members are noticeable.

Among other areas affected, food security and drinking water are the main problems faced due to the increasing level of sea erosion onshore.

“Our wells used for drinking now taste salty and our root crops become smaller in size” explained a concerned Chief of Tuo.

The Environment Committee viewed such places like Tuo and other outer islands like Pileni, Duff, Anuta and Tikopia as very vulnerable to sea level rise due to their atoll characteristics and the only means for adaptation is to relocate. However, relocation is a sensitive issue given the nature of tribal land ownership.

Sea level rise threat and its impacts is so imminent and complex consequently as it results from a chain of other issues. However, the details will be made known to the public after the Committee’s report has been compiled and tabled in parliament.

Meanwhile, for the Health and Medical Services Committee (HMSC), this hearing in Lata was also in its second phase. This is after its first round of inquiry in 2016 where it took evidences from the general public and health officials from Kilu’ufi and Malu’u hospitals in Malaita Province.

Likewise, the Committee conducted inquiry in Lata purposely to gather collective information from Temotuans and health officials from Lata hospital and surrounding health centres and to hear their stories on the status and quality of medical services provided in this remote part of the country, by medical and healthcare facilities.

Temotu Province has only one hospital, one area health centre, six rural health clinics and nine nurse aid posts that provided health services in the province. Furthermore, most nurses that served in Temotu Province are secondary health care nurses. This showed that there is need to strengthen primary health care services of prevention.

It was obvious during the Committee’s sight visit to Lata hospital and Manuopo area health centers in the Reef Islands that most facilities are run down and unfit to use.

The Health Committee organized a public forum for the Lata general public to finally wrap up the inquiry. This was purposely for those who did not have the chance to share their thoughts and experiences regarding health services in their province.

The Chairman of the Health and Medical Services Committee, Hon. Charles Sigoto, assured the general public and health officials during the inquiry and the open forum that his Committee has taken onboard all their concerns and will be compiled in a report to be presented to Parliament.

Details of each of the three committees’ series of inquiry will not be pre-emptied or will not be disclosed for now. However, the general public will be informed through other forms on the outcome of all hearings after each Committee’s report has been compiled and tabled in Parliament.

All three committees are Standing Select Committees and are mandated by Parliament to perform oversight over the executive government’s decisions and actions.

This is to ensure that the government’s service delivery and sustainable development programs are maximized and prioritized to improve the socio-economic status and well-being of its people and the country as a whole.

The Temotu Provincial excutive and the rural Temotuans have expressed their gratitude and commended the three Parliamentary Committees as this was the first time in their history to receive seven Members of Parliament on their shores at one time.

Members of Parliament who are either Chair or members of each of the three Committees at the Temotu inquiry are: Hon. Mathew Wale, Hon. Culwick Togamana, Hon. Charles Sigoto, Hon. Connelly Sandakabatu, Hon. Peter Tom, Hon. Dickson Mua and Hon. Commins Mewa

–Parliament Media

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