Wale concerned with democracy in SI

Leader of Opposition, Matthew Wale
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OPPOSITION Leader, Matthew Wale has raised concerns on the government’s action to remove public servants who stood their ground during the covid-19 State of Public Emergency last year.

These include former president of the Solomon Islands Medical Association, Dr Claude Posala and eight members of Solomon Islands Nurses Association (SINA) who were terminated by the government for allegedly spreading false information and staged a sit in protest respectively.

Wale raised the issue when the Ministry of Health and Medical Service officials appeared before the Bills and Legislative Committee in Parliament yesterday.

BLC is scrutinising the Public Health Emergency Bill 2021 which aims to provide suitable and urgent responses to public health emergencies and circumstances that threatens the health of the persons and communities of Solomon Islands.

The bill aims to enable a range of operational capabilities and activities that will be able to quickly respond to such emergencies and circumstances and prevent, mitigate, eliminate the contamination, disease or other occurrence causing the emergencies and circumstances, and recover from them.

Under section 38 (2) of the Bill, it states an authorised officer, or person employed or engaged to carry out functions, duties or responsibilities in an essential service, commits an offence if the authorised officer or person takes part in industrial action while Declaration is in force or there exists a circumstance that threatens public health.

Under section 40 of the Bill, a person commits an offence if, while a Declaration is in force or there exists a circumstance that threatens public health, the person

  1. Maliciously fabricates or knowingly disseminates or publishes, whether by writing or by word of mouth, online or otherwise, any false news or report that is likely to create or foster public alarm, public anxiety or disaffection or to produce public detriment; or

Wale said there should be a process internally to deal with professionals and resolve the issues rather than removing them.

“We should not follow a communist state to shut down information,” he said.

Wale claimed the nature of the governance is not an open government.

He said the government wants to shut down and operate in secrecy.

Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Pauline McNeil said Dr Posala was removed for spreading false information on social media.

She said the only the health ministry is the right body under the Public Service General order to release information to the public.

Mrs McNeil said the information are vetted before releasing to the public media.

Furthermore, Mrs McNeil said SINA sit in protest has breached the Essential Act because they have not gotten approval from Honiara City Council and Emergency Powers Act.

However, Wale said the law is quite militant to shut down workers because they aired their grievances.