THE people and chiefs of Shortland Islands have expressed their willingness to partner with the Government to bring about a stable security environment on the western border.
Chairman of FAMOA Trust Board Chief Lawrence Hotomo said the people of Shortlands would like to engage more with the Government in its development plans for the western border.
“This will enable better and peaceful productive livelihoods for our people,” he said.
He said they are willing to work with the National Government to establish key strategic infrastructures at the Western border.
Mr. Hotomo highlighted this when the Prime Minister and his delegation visited Nila to meet with chiefs, elders, and church leaders, Wednesday this week.
He said security at the western border is paramount also acknowledging the Government’s continuous support to the people at the western border.
“We welcome you Prime Minister and your delegation to Shortland Islands. We have had very high-level visits from the Deputy Prime Minister and now the Prime Minister in a span of seven months,” Chief Hotomo said.
The FAMOA chairman said the high-level visits are reassuring as it places great importance on the welfare of the people of Shortlands, even though Shortlands is located far from Honiara.
“The Shortland Islands are strategically important to our country and therefore the welfare of our people and the islands should never be overlooked or taken for granted,” he said.
Chief Hotomo also took the opportunity to thank the Government for the leadership shown in putting in place measures including the deployment of police and other ‘first responders’ to prevent Covid-19 from entering the western border.
“We take this opportunity to sincerely thank those officers who have made the sacrifice to leave their loved ones behind and to be part of the current deployment to the border. Your contributions are not unnoticed and are very much appreciated,” he said.
However, he said the border restrictions under the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) have unfortunately affected some families.
“We hope the situation will be back to normal as soon as possible,” he said.
Mr Hotomo also raised with the Prime Minister and his delegation on the issues of telecommunication difficulties, road network, Balalae airport upgrade, education, and health services in the Shortlands.
However, the FAMOA chairman acknowledged and welcomed the proposed patrol boat base at the western border.
“We are prepared and we welcome this exciting development. The allocation of 20hectares of land for this project shows our willingness and preparedness in working with the Government,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare in response has thanked the people of Shortland for welcoming his delegation.
The Prime Minister informed everyone at the gathering that the SOPE border restrictions were put in place to protect our citizens from Covid 19.
He said he is aware of the difficulties faced by families that have relatives on the other side that wants to return.
But the Government had to make decisions to keep our people safe.
“We all hope this will be over soon but we thank you for your continuous support during this course of the pandemic,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare also informed them of the Government’s Covid 19 rollout strategy.
On the issue of border security, Prime Minister Sogavare has thanked the people of Shortlands for continuing to work with the Government.
“Thank you also for supporting the good work of our front liners,” he said.
Moreover, Prime Minister Sogavare said the Government is committed to the set up of the patrol boat base at the western border.
“Shortlands is our country’s strategic location and the Government plans to see this part of the country host strategic assets that will support our border security plans,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare also thanked the chiefs, elders, and people of Shortland for the allocation of the 20 hectares of land for this project.
“This is the kind of partnership and relationship that indicates the willingness and support for such developments,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the proposed schedule for the groundbreaking will be around April or May this year after Parliament sits to deliberate on the 2021 Budget.
The Prime Minister said he has also taken note of the concerns raised regarding issues surrounding Balalai airport and other matters that were raised.
Hundreds of people and schoolchildren came out to welcome the Prime Minister when his delegation arrived in Nila.