By Alfred Sasako
PRIME Minister Rick Houenipwela must be wondering what happened when he turned up at the Brisbane International Airport on Monday, ready for the final leg of his journey home.
Instead of being accorded express check-in and proper protocol befitting heads of government, he simply went through the ordinary check-in counter.
Solomon Islands’ High Commissioner to Australia, Colin Beck saw Prime Minister Houenipwela off in Brisbane last Monday.
“The Prime Minister’s delegation was accorded proper protocol when they arrived in Brisbane from Taipei. They were taken to the VIP lounge and so on,” insiders said.
But this was not the case on his departure from Brisbane on Monday, according to travellers who were on the flight from Brisbane.
“He (Prime Minister) simply checked in as the rest of us,” one traveller told Island Sun.
Officials are said to be wondering why the Prime Minister was accorded such disrespect, especially on the eve of his visit to Australia and New Zealand.
Prime Minister Houenipwela is due to leave on a two-week visit to Australia and New Zealand beginning on June 5 this year.
Officials say he will travel to New Zealand first and will cross the Tasman to Australia later.
The mishap in protocols is not the only bungle suffered by the Prime Minister’s delegation.
Insiders told Island Sun on Tuesday the first mishap happened in Japan and later in Taiwan when it was found the Imprest Officer on the delegation could not access funds through his credit card to pay the costs they incurred.
The officer, said to be from the Office of the Prime Minister, had dumped all the Imprest money into his credit card before the delegation left Solomon Islands.
“The card was not recognised by ATMs in those countries. As a result, the people on the delegation had to resort to paying their duty-related costs using their per diems all throughout the trip,” the insider said.
“It was embarrassing but there was little delegation members could do. They just had to use their per diem.”