The government must respect and abide by its decision on reintroducing the bechedemer ban.
The government has announced there will be no extension made to the lifting of the ban and warned all bechedemer related activities should stop on 31st May 2013 or appropriate penalties will be imposed.
Transparency Solomon Islands fully supports the reintroduction of the ban and we applaud the government for listening to calls from the public and civil society to take action on the issue.
We acknowledge that the ban will have an impact on the rural people who depend on bechedemer for their livelihood.
But there are allegations of secret deals between authorities and exporters and claims of threats and intimidation surrounding the bechedemer trade that need immediate investigation.
Now we must ask, how serious is the government about the bechedemer ban?
The ban was imposed in April 2009 but was lifted for three months earlier this year to allow for rural people to have a window of income.
Even though the bechedemer ban was imposed, there were some serious allegations that call into question the willingness or ability of the government to enforce the ban.
It was reported that in 2010 the cabinet allowed an Asian businessman to export 150 tonnes of bechedemer.
In 2012 there were allegations that senior police officers were assisting government officials in a plan to export millions of dollars worth of bechedemer in defiance of the ban.
Now everyone involved in the bechedemer trade must respect the ban.
Transparency Solomon Islands understands that the whole trade, from the reef to the marketplace, is captured within the ban.
The Fisheries (Amendment) Regulations 2009 Act 13A states that “A person who catches and retains, sells, expose for sale, exports or is in possession for export, any bechedemer commits an offence.”
This means that rural people, license holders or exporters risk a fine of up to $100,000 or 4 months in jail if they are found to have breached the ban.
For a rural farmer this fine is huge, but for a wealthy buyer the fine is very small and does not discourage the buyer to continue buying bechdemer illegally.
Therefore, the government must put in enough resources to enforce and monitor the ban.
We want to know what you think about the bechdemer saga. Call TSI on 28319, email email@example.com or get in touch via our facebook page www.facebook.com/TransparencySI
To report corruption, bribery or abuse of public office, call ALAC on 20391 or drop by our office on first floor of the Stephen and Sons building in China Town, Honiara
Credibility of the Bechedemer Ban?
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