TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) supports the call by the Prime Minister (PM) Manasseh Sogavare warning private companies and individuals who made private arrangements for flights and vessel entry into Solomon Islands without consulting and/or seeking the approval of the Covid-19 Oversight Committee.
The COVID 19 pandemic is far from over and we must be vigilant in ensuring this virus do not breach measures we have in place, and that this nation is safe from this pandemic.
TSI is very much concerned to learn that some private firms’ actions directly undermine the efforts to keep this nation safe, choosing their own interests over the safety of this nation and putting the lives of Solomon Islanders at risk during this global pandemic.
The PM revealed in his nation-wide address this week that a landing craft namely MV. Kopi left Lae Port of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and entered Solomon Islands without the knowledge of the oversight committee. This PNG flagged vessel was chartered by a private company here in Honiara.
The crews of the vessels were tested for covid-19 and two of them were confirm positive and were isolated in the vessel. TSI like other citizens of this country, is very disappointed to hear that decisions have been made by certain individuals and companies, blatantly ignoring our laws during this pandemic. TSI stand alongside the PM and calls on all private companies and individuals intending to arrange any such vessel charters or flights to seek approval from the Oversight Committee.
This is no time to be inconsiderate and any person or company responsible for such actions must be dealt with accordingly. We are still governed under the State of Public Emergency and the actions referred to by the Prime Minister is a direct and deliberate breach of the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) rules by the company responsible.
The refusal to seek approval from the government to enter the country undermined the sovereignty of Solomon Islands and is an offense that warrant severe punishment during this time of the pandemic. The two covid-19 positive cases onboard the vessel now poses a serious threat to the health, safety and security of Solomon Islands citizens, particularly the frontliners who will be dealing with this vessel.
TSI urged the covid-19 frontline to quarantine the entire vessel and decontaminate all the cargoes bounded for our shores.
Transparency Solomon Islands also wish to thank the PM and the Oversight Committee for the quick intervention in halting one of the chartered flights arranged by several private companies to bring in their employees from covid-19 high risk countries like PNG, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Solomon Islands responses to keeping this nation safe from covid 19 must not be relaxed.
TSI agrees and also holds the view that strict measures must be in place for all incoming flights and vessels. We have an Oversight Committee that is directly responsible for this and prior approval must be sought from the of the oversight committee.
Any company or person who fail to seek the consent of the committee regarding arranging chartered flights or vessels into the country at this time is putting our nation at risk and must be strongly condemned, and must be dealt with accordingly given our current state of public emergency rules. Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation and no one should be undermining the sovereignty of this country by crossing over the international borders without the knowledge of the oversight committee, that was established and delegated with the mandate to determine incoming vessels or flights.
Transparency Solomon Islands also reiterates the call by the Prime Minister for all companies to work closely with the government during this time of the pandemic.
We are living in the time where border restrictions are very tough, no government wishes to be caught up in the situation where daily digging of mass graves is sadly becoming a norm as it is now happening in countries hit hard by covid-19. Our neighbor PNG was reported to be running out of mortuary space as a result of covid-19 and India could not stop cremating hundreds of dead bodies daily.
These are worrying situations that we must all work together to ensure that that our already pressured health systems will not be encumbered.
As such, TSI supports the call made by the Prime Minister that companies who failed to comply must be taken to task. Solomon Islands welcomed investors to do business here but lest they forget, this country is a sovereign nation with laws and processes to follow and anyone who fails to comply must face the repercussion and be dealt with by the laws applicable during this pandemic.
It is the health, safety and security of Solomon Islands that is paramount and must be protected at all cost. Companies that engage in those private shipment arrangements might think of profit making and survival of their businesses but they have to bear in mind that the health of citizens is more important than money.