Protest over failed Fiu Bridge project

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Demonstrators in Auki showing placards stating their intentions during yesterday's peaceful protest.
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BY SAMIE WAIKORI

AUKI

West Kwara’ae communities have come out voicing their disappointment at the Malaita government’s handling of the failed Fiu Bridge project proposal.

Members of communities in wards two, three and four (in West Kwara’ae constituency) staged a peaceful protest yesterday in Auki.

The purpose of the protest was to express their dissatisfaction at the Malaita government in its hardline anti-China stand, which is sacrificing much needed development for the province, such as the recent Fiu Bridge upgrade project.

Acting premier Nelson Lenty responding to the protest made by Hon Fini yesterday in Auki.

Protesters came in trucks bearing banners with messages begging answers from the province’s government regarding the Fiu Bridge project.

Leaders in the three wards decided to stage the protest in a meeting held at Gwaunaru village on May 29.

Spokesman for the demonstrators, MPA for ward three, Martin Fini, said the protest was to convey their grievances as “concerned Malaitans for development”.

Hon Martin Fini (left) shakes hand in delivering the petition document to the acting premier Hon Nelson Lenty (right).

He said they have drafted a petition demanding the Malaita government to clarify the future of the project.

The petition states:

1. We the elders of Ward two, three and four of Central and West Kwara’ae constituencies duly demand that Fiu bridge project funded by the World Bank must implemented forthwith.

2. We agreed that our elected Provincial Assembly Members shall consult with relevant authorities either provincial, national or any other stakeholders to ensure the project is implemented without unnecessary disturbance.

3. we do not agree with the position that the Malaita provincial Government Executive takes in dealing with the project.

4. We will only support the provincial position when they assure us that whatever step they intend to take will not affect the timing and the funding of this project.

5. We further demand that the so called “Political Advisor” to the premier not to directly involve in the current Fiu Bridge project as his contract had been terminated and any such advice is deemed as illegal,

6. Fiu bridge construction must be implemented as it connects the northern and eastern regions to Auki and the southern region to Gwaunaru’u airport.

7. We note that halting of the project affect the transport owners of wards one, two, three and four in the provision of essential service to the aforementioned wards and to other regions of Malaita.

8. We firmly believe that better infrastructures are essential for the movement of goods and services to markets at cheaper cost, which encourage farming and commercial activities in our respective wards.

9. We further believe that halting of the Fiu bridge project would affect the tar-sealing component of the Auki Road network from Auki Township to Dala in west Kwara’ae constituency and from Auki to Bina in west Kwaio constituency.

Fini delivered the petition to acting Premier Nelson Lenty at the provincial office yesterday.

Hon Fini addressing the acting premier on behalf of the demonstrators.

In response to the petition, acting premier Lenty acknowledged the group for exercising their democratic rights in bringing their grievances by way of a peaceful protest and petition as law has provided for.

He assured the demonstrators that their petition will be discussed by the Malaita Executive in their meeting next week.

Late last month, the government-funded Fiu Bridge upgrade project proposal was scrapped after the Malaita provincial government refused to entertain it due to the presence of a Chinese company as a bidder, which also happened to be the sole bidder.

Malaita’s government was acting on the Auki Communique, a document founded in November 2019 in response to the national government’s switch from Taiwan (a democratic ally) to its current communist ally, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The Auki Communique directs the Malaita Government not to engage with any Chinese entity, even if it means foregoing any development prospects for Solomon Islands’ biggest province.

Malaita’s staunch Premier, Daniel Suidani, launched the Auki Communique on November 16, 2019.


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