Thursday, 13 March 2008 1:55 PM

Sogavare Questions PM's Statement on Whaling

The Leader of Opposition, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare has questioned whether Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua's rejection to attend the latest International Whaling Commission meeting reflected the decision of his cabinet on commercial whaling.

Dr Sikua announced at a joint Press Conference with his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd in Honiara last weekend that he had turned down an offer by Japan to fund the attendance of Solomon Islands at that IWC meeting in London.

Sogavare said the Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement Government must be cautious when deciding on the issue of commercial whaling as it would affect the national interest of Solomon Islands.

He said previous Solomon Islands governments, including the Grand Coalition for Change Government, had taken a neutral position on commercial whaling due to its concern about the harvesting of dolphins in Solomon Islands mainly for cultural reasons.

Sogavare said Sikua's statement, which was made after meeting his Australian counterpart, suggested that he had bowed to the interests of Australia, which was unrelenting in its opposition to commercial whaling.

"I doubt the statement by the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr Derek Sikua reflected his cabinet's decision. The statement threatens our national interest. Past Solomon Islands government's including the former Grand Coalition for Change Government were always mindful in their handling of the issue had had taken neutral positions and this was based on our concern for dolphin harvesting.

"People in certain parts of the country harvest dolphins and extract their teeth for traditional money and traditional ceremonial wear and we must ensure their cultures are protected.

"If Dr Sikua is not serving our national interests then whose interest is he serving," he said.

The Leader of Opposition said there are powerful arguments both for and against commercial whaling and Solomon Islands should not change its neutral stand unless there are scientific evidence to the arguments of either side.

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