Deputy Prime Minister, Fred Fono (MP), dismisses claims by the Malaita Ma'asina Forum - accusing the present government of displaying a "lukewarm" attitude towards major development projects on Malaita Province.

Forum President, Hudson Kwalea, has accused the CNURA government of placing inadequate efforts to start major projects including the Bina Harbour Sea port, Auluta and Waisisi Palm Oil projects and the Suava Bay Fisheries Center.

But Mr. Fono yesterday said the president had desolately failed to acknowledge and understand the government's continued commitment and efforts toward the projects.

He said government commitment remains high with an allocation of more than SB$10 million for the projects in the 2009 budget.

Mr. Fono, however, explained that the slow progress in starting the projects is caused by challenges arising from tribal land disputes in those areas.

"The projects continue to progress on a slow pace due to ongoing land disputes between tribal groups," Mr. Fono said

He said government's financial commitment towards the projects will be expended when disputes are settled.

"Government cannot expend money on projects that are surrounded by disputes," he said. "While we remain committed to the projects, we also encourage landowning groups to sort out their differences as soon as possible to enable government to facilitate the projects".

The Deputy Prime Minister had encouraged the Ma'asina Forum to genuinely assist all stakeholders to sort out challenges surrounding the projects so that progress can be made quickly instead of making pointless accusations on government.

"I think it's unfair to blame the government for the slow progress on Malaita projects," he said. "The best thing for the Ma'asina Forum is to assist disputing parties to sort out their differences and encourage them to allow their resources for development".

Mr. Fono said the government strongly believed that establishing major projects on Malaita is key towards addressing economic and social challenges facing the country.

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