Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:18 PM

Government & Seized Foreign Vessels

Dear Editor,

I would be grateful if my following thoughts on the Rini Saga and the Government's practice on under the table dealing could be published.

I have been following the Rini Sagas as they have unfolded; and believe that the release of the tag boat/barge is the tip of the iceberg on this sort of dealing and practice within the Solomon Islands. It is not the first time politicians have sided with logging companies or other non beneficial entities, if we started to name individuals in the Government, inclusive of the opposition and other prominent figures in the public, the public would be shocked. However; I would prefer to articulate on the practice of release of vessels conducting illegal activity in the Solomon Islands.

In the Marovo Lagoon, the broader Western Province and Solomon Islands, it is not rocket science that Marovo lagoon and other parts of the Solomon's has been totally destroyed by logging. Under whose watch and leadership? It is so embarrassing as a Solomon Islander flying over Marovo with tourist on board and as soon as we reach Morovo, cameras are out flashing and the remarks so embarrassing, tourist are shocked out of their minds with the destruction. Make the link here yourselves? Place blo who nao Marovo Lagoon ia? Ma who nao member blo oketa?

Sadly, Morovo Lagoon was also taken off the World heritage listing with indefinite relisting any time soon. I am yet to see people like Mr. Rini praising the works and initiatives of Conservation Activists like; Patrick Pikacha, though Patrick is also from Marovo and also articulated the consequences of logging and the effects on Fauna and Flora. Patrick my brother! Continue with the excellent work, our time for change will come; we just need these old farts to resign and give way for some realists and people with true developmental and environmentally concise minds.

Almost 80 to 90 percent of logging companies operating in the Solomon Islands are subcontracted by Earth Movers, this is a known fact and current Government legislation under the Forestry Act doesn't protect or limit this occurrence, though its tries to articulate it, in reality there are so many gaps, given key politicians are behind logging operations. This is already well and truly over it's time for change, any change now would be meaningless, no more logs! The question here is; who has made the final amendments to bills and acts before they go before parliament over the years and now?

Concerning Rini's release of the Tug Boat/barge, why had this occurred? If Rini's mare justifications are attributed to earth Movers helping our economy, I believe we have helped Earth Movers more than it has ever given this country. This same tug boat was said to have been seized a few years back at Noro, for importing fuel illegally, why wasn't it seized then, remains another mystery? Crew members of the same vessel have over the years said to be involved with illegal sale of goods in Solomon Islands particularly and evidently in the Western Province, including the article in Solomon Star a few years back on endemic birds seized on foreign logging vessel.

In addition to the Tug boat/barge release and my mention of "Tip of the Iceberg" this may be a small give away compared to release of illegal foreign fishing vessels in Solomon's EEZ. The numbers of vessels seized annually by FFA personnel through routine surveillance, makes the releases of the recent Rini Tug Boat/barge Saga look like peanuts. Whilst other Pacific Islands are racking in Millions on seized illegal fishing vessels, our fisheries department chooses to be soft. FFA is located in Honiara and yet our fisheries department seems not to be functioning adequately to update registered vessels, this is another unexplained mystery of which someone should have been sacked already. Can RSIP investigate this?

Take the example of small Island States; a classic example being the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), annually the FSM Police Commissioner actually sets a target of 8 to 10 million US dollars to be earned through the capture and resell of illegal fishing vessels. Shockingly they double this figure easily. Hence, additionally figures for Government revenues, Police force improvements and supplementary funds for short falls e.g. increase in pay. Note that Solomon Islands is also within one of the richest fishing grounds on this planet. Or are our Solomon Islands Patrol Boats only for decoration?

Okay, so corruption is everywhere? However our public servants should start performing as per their position and role; update and inform the public, give out information to the public if your arms are being twisted by your superiors or even the Minister. Work honestly, you guys are the only ones in our country that get paid by tax payers and should start showing your worth, Government is only as strong as its public servants and their commitments, output, work ethics and the strong believe in patriotism for country and fellow citizens; We want to see change in the lives of Solomon Islanders.

I also believe that public service should change from appointment and admission system of recruitment to contract based; so as public servants can be held accountable; with work output and performance regularly inspected and assessed. This way we don't end up having fruitless individuals living off the Government system, some even into 20 or 30 years service for doing nothing. It is well known fact that once you are admitted into the public service, you are there for life, no such things as performance or termination.

Finally I would just like to offer my congratulations to the Customs and Exercise Officers for bring the Rini Drama to the public's attention. Additionally the fight has only began; please continue to observe and be vigilant in the number, type and quality of imported goods into our shores, with the unmoving believe that all goods should be beneficial to the public as well as tax due. Continue with the good work. Two Thumbs Up!!!

The Custom and Exercise change of strategic direction in recent years and this recent Rini mayhem should be seen as a good example of commitment for other Ministries to follow suit, the change we want to see lies with how committed our public service is; starting with our key public servants; the Honorable Members of Parliament.

Anyway, some food for thought Nomoa!

John Kay

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of John Kay and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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