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Opposition calls for police and Leadership Codes Commission to investigate bribery attempt on Malaita’s Premier

BY ALFRED PAGEPITU

OPPOSITION Leader Matthew Wale has singled out Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare as head of government to answer for the failed bribery attempt on Malaita’s Premier by a Minister and a government back-bencher.

The failed bribery attempt on Premier Daniel Suidani shows the national government’s tactics and process to secure votes for the China switch, Opposition asserts.

Opposition Leader Matthew Wale in his media statement yesterday condemned the move to buy support from Premier Suidani with an offer of $1 million, which the premier had exposed to media on Monday.

Government, in its official response through the Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat, came an inch from confessing that Premier Suidani’s revelations were true.

In the response, while denouncing ‘any form of bribery by national leaders’, Provincial Government Minister and Member of Parliament for West Guadalcanal, Anthony Veke, admitted having made the invitation to which Premier Suidani had alluded to in his revelation.

“Minister Veke was in the process of inviting premiers for a dialogue to map a way forward for provinces in context of the new Sino-SI relations when he made the invitation.” The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“Veke also confirmed that arrangements were being made by the Ministry for Premier Suidani and other Premiers to hold a roundtable dialogue and to explain as Minister responsible for Provincial Governments, the foreign policy position of DCGA and processes involved in the decision to change diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

“Minister Veke confirmed that no bribes were offered by the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening.” The statement adds.

With this peculiar response, government called on Premier Suidani to take his allegations to the police for investigation.

Opposition, while echoing the call for a police investigation into the matter, adds that the Chairman of the Leadership Code Commission must also probe into this serious allegation.

Mr Wale says, “As the alleged bribe was made by two Government MPs before the decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China was made, it raises the even more serious question of whether the Prime Minister as head of the Government, authorised the two MPs to make the offer to the Premier.

“It will be quite surprising if the two alleged Government MPs were acting on their own accord and were offering their own money to the Premier. 

“The Prime Minister therefore must be called to answer.

“Furthermore, the allegations also now call into question the process undertaken by the Government to secure the decision to switch diplomatic ties to China. 

“If the Premier who is not a voting MP was promised money for his support, were the Government MPs who voted in support of the switch also offered money in the same way that is alleged and if so, who authorised such offers, and where did the money come from?”

Wale goes on to say, “The public is entitled to know whether payments were made to Government MPs for their votes and whether such payments were made from public funds, Chinese money or money from persons with vested interest in the outcome of the vote to switch. 

“These again are serious public interest questions that warrant immediate action by our responsible law enforcement authorities.”

The Opposition leader urges the Commissioner of Police not to sit on the allegations.

“The public deserve answers and the way to provide answers is to properly investigate the allegations and to immediately prosecute those who are implicated.”

Premier Suidani early this week told media that he had received two phone calls; the first from a government backbencher, the second from a government Minister; during which he was offered $1 million to support the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) move to switch to China from Taiwan.

Suidani said that he refused the $1-million offer.

Premier Suidani did not give names, however said that both government members were MPs from Guadalcanal.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson Honimae of the Police Media Unit, says police will only act if the allegations are reported to it with evidence.

In his comment to the Forum Solomon Islands International [Facebook], Mr Honimae says, “The RSIPF will only investigate the allegations if they are referred to the police with evidence. If not police cannot do anything about it. My wantoks let us understand the process and no toktok olobaot. No unnecessarily criticism RSIPF. We must follow processes and no short kate olbaot. Very soon we will be known as the Olobaot Islands. God save the Hapi Isles.”

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