PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has told two former Prime Ministers they would be made ‘offers’ on government houses the two ex-prime ministers are occupying in Honiara.
Former Prime Minister, Francis Billy Hilly told Solomon Star last night this was the outcome of discussions he and former Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza had with Mr. Sogavare Wednesday afternoon.
The meeting on Wednesday afternoon was requested by Mr. Sogavare, Sir Francis said.
“What the offer means we don’t know. There is no timeframe on it either. So we will simply be waiting to hear back from Prime Minister Sogavare,” Sir Francis said.
The disclosure by Sir Francis comes as unconfirmed reports making the rounds that Cabinet has already approved a Cabinet paper which sought to allow the two former Prime Ministers to own two government houses both men are occupying in Honiara.
But Sir Francis said the tone of Prime Minister Sogavare’s voice in our discussions is that Cabinet is yet to consider a paper on the matter.
He said the case he and Mr. Kemakeza are pursuing goes 10 years back.
“An ordinary MP was given a government house by another former Prime Minister. So we wrote to the Prime Minister then to see if we could also be considered for such an arrangement.
“It really took 10 years before Prime Minister Sogavare came back to us. He wanted to see Mr. Kemakeza and me. So we met him yesterday afternoon,” Sir Francis said.
“Prime Minister (Manasseh) Sogavare took a Cabinet Paper to Cabinet to get approval to allow ex-PMs, namely Allan Kemakeza and Sir (Francis) Billy Hilly to possess the houses they currently use,” sources earlier told Solomon Star.
“Cabinet approved the paper last week,” the sources said, warning the decision would “definitely open the floodgates for other ex-PMs to do so including himself when he retires from politics.”
“Definitely a self-serving Cabinet Paper. A few Ministers appear not in favour of the move,” the source said.
The Secretary to Cabinet denied there was such a Cabinet decision.
“Thank you for seeking OPMC for confirmation or denial of the story. The Secretary to Cabinet is consulted and he is not aware of any such Cabinet decision at the moment, the Director of Government Communication Unit, George Hemming told Solomon Star on Wednesday.
The sources pointed out that the Prime Minister’s Pensions Act “does not authorize the government to dispose government houses for ex-PMs. The Act basically says ex-PMs are entitled to government housing until death or a rental allowance if they opt to remain in their private houses.”
“These government houses should be freed up for civil and public servants to use. Ex-PMs should move to their private houses and receive rental allowance from the government in accordance with their pension entitlements,” the sources said.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said he was never consulted on the move.
“If it is true, why the two. In general, the move is tantamount to privatising state properties,” Mr. Lilo said.
He said there are a lot of issues involved in such a decision, including the question of affordability.
“Can the state afford such a costly undertaking especially at this time? Unfortunately, a lot of decisions made by the Prime Minister in recent times “are not appropriate.”
In its 43 years since independence, Solomon Islands produced 10 Prime Ministers including three who have since passed on. Seven Prime Ministers are alive today.
They are Sir Ezekiel Alebua, Snyder Rini, Derek Sikua, Danny Philip, Gordon Darcy Lilo, Ricky Hou, and Mr. Sogavare himself.
The three former Prime Ministers who have passed on are Sir Peter Kenilorea, Solomon Mamaloni, and Bartholomew Ulufa’alu.
By ALFRED SASAKO