Tuesday, 8 January 2008 1:46 PM

Solomons Government Questions Opposition's Court Threats

The Solomon Islands government has questioned the Opposition on their decision to take the issue of demand for return of official vehicles to court.

In a bid to retain official vehicles from former Ministers, the Dr. Derek Sikua-led government, instead, faced threats from the Opposition camp to take the matter to court to be decided.

A lawyer representing the Opposition, Wilson Rano of Pacific Lawyers, informed Prime Minister Sikua in a letter that approval was given for the former Ministers to hold on to the officials vehicles.

Mr. Rano explained that approval by the former Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, "was made pursuant to his powers and discretion under section 39(5) of the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission (Amendment) Regulations 2006".

Prime Minister Sikua was further informed that the former Ministers have been advised to hold on to the vehicles despite demands to return them.

In the call to former Ministers, it was made clear that the government is not in the financial position to purchase new vehicles.

The Minister of Infrastructure Development, Stanley Sofu, on the court issue states that "Ministers who defected from Mr. Sogavare never kicked up a fuss when the Prime Minister's Office directed we return the vehicles".

"... we gracefully returned them because we knew Mr. Sogavare's new Ministers required them to do their duties," Mr. Sofu pointed out.

He questioned why Mr. Sogavare, in turn, would want to take the government to court to resolve the issue.

Mr. Sofu said that the former Prime Minister, Mr. Sogavare, had returned one of two vehicles he had been allocated with.

"Mr. Sogavare ... will be given an official vehicle as he is entitled to under his Parliamentary Entitlements Regulations," he clarified, adding that the Leader of Independents will also be given a vehicle.

The Infrastructure Development Minister said that other than the Ministers, new Chairpersons of Parliamentary Committees will also be provided with vehicles under their entitlements.

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