THE Western Provincial Government (WPG) is calling for the immediate termination of Solomon Ports Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eranda Kotelawala over his involvement with Noro Port in the Western province.
In a statement issued by the Office of the Western Provincial Premier and on behalf of the people of the Western province Premier David Gina wants to see Mr Kotelawala removed immediately or his contract be terminated once it expires.
Mr Gina during a press conference on Wednesday explained the reason for the call.
“I want him out due to his arrogance and insensitivity to the economic aspiration of the people of Western province,” he said.
Premier Gina said at the beginning of this year he wrote three applications to Ports Authority requesting a warehouse in Noro to start a Western Province Investment Corporation’s (WPIC) subsidiary to do export and import.
He said the first application was sent to the property manager copied to the CEO. The two remaining letters were directly sent to the CEO.
However, after repeated applications sent to the CEO his only response came through a letter dated 10th October which the premier’s office received on 25th October informing them that the request for a warehouse was turned down due to a Port’s master plan earmarked for Noro port.
Premier Gina in response to the letter said the CEO must tell the truth if the master plan was simply an excuse to make his plan and agenda to shut Western province out from Noro port.
“According to his (CEO) response, the current copra shed will be removed based on the master plan to give more room for Ports operations.
“But I want to remind the CEO that no demolition of the copra sheds will be allowed by the Western Province Planning Board unless a replacement warehouse is built to accommodate copra storage,” Mr Gina warned.
The premier said the CEO must know that the original establishment of Noro port is to deal with copra export.
“Being a foreigner he must abide to the original establishment of Noro port which is copra and that is the flagship of my government,” he expressed.
Premier Gina further claimed that the CEO has also been involved in a conflict of interest by entertaining the continuous operation of an unlicensed business in Noro port.
He expressed his concern over Mr Kotelawala’s preferential treatment compromising his position as the Ports CEO by permitting Solomon Island Copra Commodities PTY Ltd (SICCPL) to operate.
He further claimed SICCPL is a company believed to be owned by Kotewala’s cousins from India. They rented one of the warehouses to buy and store copra.
He further revealed that SICCPL was also allocated a land inside Noro port to build a private warehouse while Western province’s application was rejected.
“Even at this very moment the company is still renting the warehouse despite the fact that the company has not granted any business license to SICCPL to operate in the province,” the premier said.
The statement added that even if the CEO was to claim that the Board had given the permission and not him, there was evidence that WP’s application was not tabled infront of the board and therefore did not get the fair hearing it was owed.
“As long as the CEO is in charge of Ports, Western province’s investments aspiration will be in jeopardy. So he has to go, he has compromised his position,’’ the disappointed premier said yesterday.
Premier Gina went on to claim the CEO is a sweet and smooth talker but fail to fulfill his words.
Mr Gina recalled he met the CEO during the leader’s summit meeting in Honiara in September for the very first time and was assured the province’s application will be considered for a space in Noro.
“He further arranged for the two of us to meet in Noro the very next week to inspect the warehouse that will be allocated to WPIC.
“That was the first time and the last I saw and heard from him till we receive the letter last month to inform us that our application was turned down,’’ Premier Gina stated.
He further claimed the CEO has also done illegal deduction of $119,280 from Western province’s revenue on land rates.
He said the CEO and his finance manager illegally deducted the amount last month from the Western province’s land rates based on a baseless allegation that WPIC owed Ports rental arrears for a warehouse in Noro when the rental arrears relate to a Chinese businessman.
“How could you claim rental arrears from us when you just turn down our application.
“We will seek legal action to correct this illegal deduction if nothing is done in the next coming month,” he said.
The premier further added that he is aware of the forensic audit sanctioned by the Auditor General on Ports Authority’s Capital Expenditure.
“I believe this is a very first forensic audit ever done for Ports, I am also aware that the audit report is complete and is now with the responsible Minister.
“On behalf of the Western provincial government and the people of Western province, I appeal to the DCCG Government to release the forensic audit report.
“Obviously as head of Ports the CEO must be held accountable for the forensic audit finding.
“As host province to Noro port, I the premier of Western Province sincerely appeal to you the Minister responsible for Ports to weigh the reasons presented and terminate the CEO’s contracts or halt any plans to renew of his contract,’’ Premier Gina concluded.
Attempts to get comments from the CEO last night was impossible.
By ULUTAH GINA