BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
PEOPLE of Rennell and Bellona province have been reassured by their Premier that the province is functioning perfectly and is currently sitting on unprecedented heights.
Premier Collin Singamoana is speaking in response to media accusations on him by MPA for Renbel’s ward 9, Nicholas Taika, which were published in Solomon Star newspaper’s front page on Monday this week.
The article was full of unsubstantiated allegations levelled against Mr Singamoana, which he describes as “a ploy by Nicholas Taika and the non-executives to mislead public, facilitated by poor journalism ethics on Solomon Star’s part to go ahead and publish unbalanced stories”.
Singamoana says that in contrast to Mr Taika’s claims, Renbel province is functioning perfectly as a province, there are no tensions as purported by Taika, and Renbel province is financially sound.
Taika had accused Singamoana of fraudulent practices which has ‘brought Renbel to its knees’ and rendered it in a ‘state of financial insolvency’.
Speaking to Island Sun, Singamoana however denies the fraud allegations, adding that Renbel is on the roll with its development and strengthening plans.
He clarifies that since taking on premiership in 2015, his government had had to start from square-one in terms of bringing up the province from its failed state, introduce institutional reforms and strengthening, and make Renbel stand on its feet.
“Suspension of Renbel was a reverse of 20 years of progress for the province. And, since my government came in in 2015 we have spent the last three years fixing and mending things which has cost time and money.
“It is a very expensive undertaking to bring Renbel from being a failed province to one which is standing on its feet, and it has consumed much of our time, money and effort that would have otherwise been spent on development and progress for Renbel had the province not been suspended.
“If we had taken over a functioning province then of course we would have gone straight ahead to development and activities that would further the progress of Renbel. But that was sadly not the case.
“This is what my critics fail to understand. They think that recovering, rehabilitating and progressing a failed province would only take few months, or one year and cost nothing?
“One illustration of the titanic task is that we have spent nearly 3 and half million dollars on repaying off old debts of the province alone. And that is a big amount of money for a small province like Renbel, coupled with the limited finances available to provincial governments.”
Singamoana gives few examples of progress which Renbel has achieved so far under his tenure as premier despite the challenges and limitations Renbel province has and continues to face.
“We have retrieved province authority after it was suspended by the ministry of provincial government [MPGIS]. And, we have attained requalification of Renbel to national government’s development programme for the provinces.
“We proceeded to repay off all of Renbel province’s debts and loans, which took time depending on fund availability.
“Renbel province has never had an ordinance, and we have successfully passed seven ordinances. Renbel province before hence had only functioned with resolutions.
“We have also managed to bring back trust and confidence from the donor community such as the AusAid, JICA, Taiwan, NZAid to name few. This has enabled many individuals in Renbel to apply for projects.
“We have done away with the usual practice of ad hoc employment in the provincial administration and have set up a viable structure.
“Just only a month ago we have achieved two documents, the ward profiling and the five strategic development plans.
“And for the first time, Renbel province has sponsored one of its provincial officials to tertiary studies. Not only that but hundreds of Renbel students in primary, secondary, and tertiary are in class today thanks to the Renbel provincial government. We have managed all this despite our meagre funds.”
Singamoana reiterates that Renbel province, unlike Taika’s claims, has progressed a long way and is sitting comfortably as a well-functioning province.
He encourages the people of Renbel to not allow themselves to be misled by media publications which are baseless and tailored only to tarnish his reputation and that of his government.
“I am from Renbel province and am proud of it. I have a heart for the progression and betterment of my people of Renbel and Taika’s claims that I am exploiting Renbel for my own benefit are not only defamatory but utterly false.”
To his critics, Singamoana encourages them to practice their democratic rights, but cautions them to be wary of the boundary between constructive criticism aimed at progressing Renbel and destructive criticism which are based on selfish motives such as ‘jealousy, hatred and huger for power’.