Acting Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau in a statement said Police seized the medical equipment because of the suspicious nature of the consignment stating the manner in which the supplies were sent was suspicious.
Malaita Provincial Premier Daniel Suidani confirmed to Solomon Star Auki in an exclusive interview yesterday that his MARA government has engaged a lawyer to deal with the case while investigations continue.
Mr. Suidani said the lawyer is a former Attorney General engaged purposely to deal with this particular case.
The premier clarified that the equipment is part of Taiwan’s world-wide humanitarian support under the ROC global COVID-19 response program and Malaita is not the only recipient of such supplies.
The premier maintained that the impounded equipment is of great importance to Malaita in the fight against COVID-19.
He stressed that it is sad that the police have taken the matter out of proportion.
He said Malaita has already received 5000 masks under the same support in the past weeks.
“I find it hard to believe why the current seized supply is labeled “suspicious in nature,” Suidani said.
The premier explained that the masks came through the same arrangement and through the same contact that the police now labeled as suspicious.
In a statement yesterday, the MPG said that while the police are continuing with their investigations as reported by the media, the MPG and the Malaita individual Richard Olita is engaging a legal representative to act on behalf of the parties regarding the confiscated and impounded ROC humanitarian support COVID 19 equipment."
The premier also explained that the use of individual Richard Olita is for logistical convenience and said the province has already received the first 5000 masks through the same arrangement.
He said there is nothing to be suspicious of because the province has received supplies via this arrangement and contact.
The statement further stated, "it is regrettable that we have to come this far on this issue.
"However, MPG would like to make further clarifications on some of the issues raised by the police and then we will leave the matter in the hands of our legal representative to deal with.
"Firstly the equipment is part of the overall humanitarian support given by Taiwan to Malaita province under its Global COVID 19 response program.
"The program also includes support to countries that do not have diplomatic relationships with Taiwan.
"After all, it is humanitarian support no more, no less.
"It is through the program that Malaita province seeks humanitarian assistance and gladly received the kind support from Taiwan."
"The ground for the support was because Malaita is the most populated province in the country and the influx of people to the villages under the government's repatriation program has necessitated such supplies.
"Secondly, the use of Richard Olita's address was for logistical convenience purposes on the understanding that the equipment will be given to MPG.
"There is nothing for anyone to be suspicious about.
"After all these are the same equipment or similar ones donated to the Solomon Islands by other donors including PRC as has been reported in the media.
"Thirdly, the issue of the diplomatic pouch as raised by police and MFAET must be understood in its correct context.
"Since it's humanitarian support from the government of Taiwan, it has to come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Taiwan used the diplomatic pouch for its purpose to inform DHL that the consignment is from Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"They have not hidden anything regarding the support and they have not asked for any special immunity from SIG knowing there are no longer diplomatic ties between SI and ROC.
"There was no special treatment and immunity given to the consignment as police and MFEAT would like to think.
"In fact, MPG have gladly paid for the import duties already and have not bothered to apply for any duty exemptions as may be suspected by the police.
"We urge the police to handle this issue like with some level of sensitivity and to reach out to Richard Olita and the Malaita Provincial Government so that we all can help with the investigations as stated in the media," he said.
Meanwhile, an outspoken Malaita man, Nathaniel Maegwari has called on the Acting Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau to do the right thing and release the medical equipment to Malaita as soon as possible.
Mr.Maegwari said the national government should congratulate Malaita province for taking a step further to providing necessary items for its people to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that such action does not reflect well of the police adding that there are other important matters to investigate such as the case of the PMO Chief of Staff who is an Australian citizen.
Mr. Maegwari claimed that the police are quick to act on a ‘suspicious case’ whilst cases with overwhelming evidence such as the one against the Chief of Staff in the PMO are shelved.
He said that he is surprised to read in the paper and heard on the radio that the police still don't act on the case even with sufficient evidence at hand.
By WILSON SAENI