By Alfred Sasako
DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Development [MID], Manasseh Maelanga, has received a formal report on the sea tragedy involving the passenger ferry, MV Taimareho, in which more than two dozen lives perished earlier this month.
Mr. Maelanga took delivery of the report – prepared by police and the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Authority (SIMSA) – last Friday, an MID official told Island Sun over the weekend.
It is understood the initial inquiry looked at a number of allegations, including overloading, criminal negligence and who was involved in allowing the MV Taimareho to sail despite a prevailing cyclone warning on 3rd April, the day ship set sail from Honiara to Auki.
It is also understood that the report has made a number of recommendations to deal with each of the allegations. Charges could be laid.
The MV Taimareho reportedly left Honiara at midnight on Friday 3rd of April. The ship was reportedly hit by giant waves in the crossing between Guadalcanal and Malaita. Twenty-seven people, mostly high school students, lost their lives when they were washed overboard.
Two parallel inquiries – one by SIMSA and the other by police – were immediately launched into the tragedy.
The Government has since appointed a three-man committee to take the matter forward. The names of committee members have been withheld until the report is discussed initially by Government Caucus and later by Cabinet.
The official said Mr. Maelanga is expected to table the report in Caucus early next week. From there, the matter will go to Cabinet.
Meanwhile, a local group is reportedly helping relatives of the victims in staking a $6 million compensation against the government for the loss of live. It is unclear whether the West Are’Are Constituency, which owns the MV Taimareho, has taken out insurance cover on the ship.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his national address on Friday said an investigation is currently underway.
He said the Ministry of Infrastructure Development has directed Maritime Authorities to carry out a formal investigation into the sea disaster while RSIPF are also continuing with their investigations into the incident and a full report is expected in the coming weeks.
He said officials from his office have been liaising with the relevant stakeholders to render support and a team of Counsellors from the Anglican Church of Melanesia, Officials from Ministry of Peace, Health workers, the Premier of Malaita and Police Officers in Malaita province dispatched a team last week to provide counselling and assess how the government can best assist the family and relatives of the victims.
Sogavare confirms that the government is continuing with its efforts to assist families and resolve outstanding issues surrounding the tragic and unnecessary loss of 27 innocent lives from aboard the MV Taimahero on the 3rd of this month during TC Harold.