SEA CHASE IN MALAITA

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Speaker leaves Auki unexpectedly before swearing in of new MARA ministers

BY SAMIE WAIKORI

AUKI

In an unprecedented turn of events to Malaita’s political upheaval, yesterday saw a high-speed sea chase of Malaita’s provincial speaker from Auki to the Central province.

Report says Speaker Ronnie Butala was supposed to have facilitated the swearing in of five new ministers to the Malaita Alliance for Rural Advancement (MARA) government, but left Auki unexpectedly onboard MV Taimareho.

Mr Butafa last night told Island Sun he had not been aware of the swearing in.

Premier Daniel Suidani has described Mr Butala’s action as “intentionally shirking and neglecting his duties”.

The swearing in was however carried out later the day under a commissioner of oath in Auki.

According to a provincial security officer, who was among those who chased MV Taimareho, the ship left Auki wharf at 8am yesterday morning.

He said shortly after the ship departed, members of MARA executive called Butafa’s mobile phone to check whether he was in Auki or in East Kwaio.

The security said all attempts were futile and they deduced that he must have left with MV Taimareho.

He said the captain of the ship was called to stop the ship while it was at Alite reef (only few kilometres from Auki).

“This is so that a boat could come over and check for Butala and return him back to Auki to facilitate the swearing-in.”

He said on their way they found that the ship had not stopped at Alite as arranged, but continued on its journey.

The security personnel said this forced them to continue with the chase, until they realised that they were running out of fuel; they had 10 gallons on a 60hp engine.

So, they called on the RSIPF for help with their fast craft in Auki.

He said within the boats were provincial security officers and police officers who chased the ship until Nggella where the ship slowed down after many attempts to signal the captain to slow down.

The security officer said they went boarded and relayed the message sent by Premier Suidani to Butafa, but he refused to return with them to Auki. They then returned to Auki.

Speaking to Island Sun last night, Butafa explains that he was not aware of the swearing-in because his office did not receive any notice from the premier.

He adds, he was at his office until 6pm on Monday but no one from the premier’s office came to notify him.

Butala said he had only learned of the swearing-in when the officers told him onboard Taimareho.

However, he said even he had been in Auki yesterday, a swearing in could not have been possible because he would have had to “seek legal interpretation first”.

Butala said recently Suidani filed a case against the deputy speaker on the delay of the swearing-in of the five appointed ministers and the matter is before court.

He adds, in order to facilitate the swearing-in of the appointed ministers, his office must receive appointment from the Minister of MPGIS.

Butala said the matter is complicated as it associated with law, which needs proper and thorough interpretation.

He said he left for Honiara to mourn with the families of his niece who had passed-on and will be back in Auki later this week.


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