IT is an intriguing mystery – why the flood lights at Henderson International Airport – were not turned on at the time a private jet carrying Russian nationals arrived in Honiara on Monday evening.
As a matter of fact I was tipped off about the flight’s arrival time – 7pm my informer told me. Shortly after 7pm, I parked outside the Domestic Security gate. With two mobiles in hand, I entered the security area to find out where a Russian plane, due around 7pm was.
“Yes, the plane has arrived. Where is it?, I inquired.
“It’s at the international airport, the duty security officer told me. So I hoped into my car and drove down to the entrance to Solomon Airlines’ head office, where I stopped outside.
I told the security officer inside the Solomon Airlines’ gate who I was and what I was interested in. “I want to take photographs of the Russian plane that arrived this evening,” I said.
“Yes, go right in. One could hardly see the jet in the distance as the whole area which the aircraft had parked was in pitch black darkness.” Inside the fence which separates the tarmac parking area for aircraft and Solomon Airlines head office, I met a senior official of our national carrier.
He too was surprised there were no lights except for the blue tarmac lights and those inside the main Terminal Building. The powerful flood lights were off.
“That’s pretty dangerous when you are unloading especially at night. The lights should have been turned on,” he said. Around twenty-past seven, he left me there, telling me he was going to buy cash power at Ranadi before SolomonPower closed for the day.
After snapping one or two shots of the jet in pitch black darkness, I walked back to my car and drove to the gate to the check-in at the main Terminal Building. It was closed but I informed the security officer on duty why I was there. He waved me through.
Shortly thereafter I parked my car on the eastern side of the main Terminal Building. I arrived at the exit gate, manned 24hours by Civil Aviation security, around 7:30pm. The floodlights were still off. By then the jet had departed.
The security officer on duty told me the passengers who arrived on the jet would soon be coming through the gate, if I cared to wait there so I could take some photos. I did.
I asked why the floodlights were not turned on when the jet arrived.
“The electtician(s) arrived late. I think they were not notified about the flight in good time,” the security man told me.
Just then the two or three floodlights came on, lighting up the entire area including where the Russian jet had parked as well as outside the VIP lounge area. By then the jet had been cleared and left.
Anyone who claimed to have seen the floodlights turned on between 7pm and 7:30pm was obviously not there. I was there the whole time and only left the airport area around 8pm that evening.
The story which made the front page was filed around 9pm, half an hour after I had arrived home from the airport.
What makes this story rather intriguing is the fact that the visit by the Russians was allegedly pre-arranged by members of the SI DCCG coalition partners. If that was the case, why did it come through at a rather odd hour?
Secondly, why would the Prime Minister be reportedly asking for surveillance on the visitors if indeed they were legit and are here to invest?
It’s very odd indeed.
Lightings are not an issue at all because we know in Solomon Islands no one reports to work on time. However, the fact that it involved foreign nationals whose bona fides are unknown just raises other important considerations, especially the issue of our national security. It is important to establish who officially invited the Russians.
Canberra is worried as would the United States given what the Russians did during the United States Presidential election in 2016. Should we be worried?