OPPOSITION leader Matthew Wale questions the independence of the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) and the conduct of its officials in dealing with Solomon Forest Association (SFA), a private organisation formed to protect the interests of foreign loggers.
“We have received reliable information that the latest statement from the Solomon Forest Association was sent to the media for publication, via an official of the Office of the Prime Minister,” Wale said in a statement yesterday.
“The SFA statement challenged the good work of the Foreign Investment Division to put loggers, who are SFA members, under the spotlight, for potential breach of our laws,” he added.
“My office was reliably informed that the attack on FIB was orchestrated by the controversial forest association, in collaboration with officials from the Prime Minister’s office, to undermine the good work of the division and its stakeholders.
“I condemn this in the strongest possible terms.
“It is sad that the status of PM’s office is allowed to be used, to undermine an operation, which was sanctioned by the government and cabinet.
“This betrays the very close relationship that the PMO has with SFA – too close for comfort. Solomon Islanders must be concerned about this cosy relationship.”
The Opposition leader said if SFA and its members disagree with any actions taken by FIB, the right recourse is to take such matters to court, not abusing the PMO to undermine and intimidate FIB.
He said the tough compliance actions taken by the Foreign Investment Division were long overdue and must be highly commended and supported.
“I applaud the Permanent Secretary and Registrar of the Foreign Investment Division for performing their duties diligently without fear or favour.
“I therefore call on the PM to stand behind government officials who continue to do the right thing, on behalf of the people and this country, rather than allow his office to be used against them by the loggers,” Wale adds.
The Opposition Leader went on to add that, “The continued close relationship between PMO and loggers against the clear interests of Solomon Islands further erodes trust in government.
“There is significant trust deficit – the people simply do not trust their government to do the right thing when it comes to loggers.”
He also said it seems leaders of government cannot free themselves from the clutches of the loggers, adding that as long as they continue to remain under the loggers’ influence, it will be difficult to see substantive reforms in the forestry sector long demanded by the people of Solomon Islands.
“Worse still, when the SFA is audacious enough to route its press statement through the PMO for vetting and the statement issued publicly condemns the legal actions of a government agency, it sends a very clear message of their power and influence over the decisions of government.
“This is undermining our systems, institutions and form of government, but it goes to show that loggers control the leadership of government,” Wale further added.