THE GOVERNMENT Caucus has defended the 16-member delegation Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is leading to Taiwan.
“Who says diplomacy is cheap,” Caucus chairman Jackson Fiulaua asked on Thursday when defending the trip, which has been heavily criticised.
The total cost of the trip to tax payers is $1.6 million, which the Opposition and other government critics have criticised.
But Mr Fiulaua says diplomacy is never cheap, either for the inviting foreign governments or the recipient countries, like Solomon Islands, because taxpayers’ money is used at both ends.
He says Solomon Islands needs to develop such infrastructure as roads and shipping services, therefore it is appropriate for the Minister of Infrastructure Development, Jimmy Lusibaea to be part of the delegation.
Mr Fiulaua added there is no better person than the MID Minister himself to tell Taipei the country’s needs for improved infrastructure.
Likewise, he says it is appropriate to have the Minister of Rural Development, Jimson Tanangada on the delegation because his Ministry oversees ROC Funding.
He says there is a high chance Mr Tanangada will use the occasion to interact with Taiwanese leaders about the ROC assistance.
And who else will inform Taipei about Solomon Islands’ needs to improve its agriculture sector, asks Mr Fiulaua, who adds, it is none other than the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Dudley Kopu who is part of the delegation.
“Taiwan did train in Taipei members of the now the defunct Para-military Force of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, therefore the inclusion of the Minister of Police and National Security, Staley Festus Sofu in the delegation could provide an opportunity to re-visit the training programme,” he added.
RAMSI, he says, which has been training members of the RSIPF will depart from Solomon Islands next July, but special training needs of the police force will continue to be around.
Caucus Chairman, Mr Fiulaua says the Minister of Lands, Housing and Survey, Moses Gharu is part of the delegation because it is his ministry that will secure a site in Honiara where the National Stadium will be built for the 2023 Pacific Games.
He believes funds to build the National Stadium will be discussed with the Taiwanese Government by the delegation.
And Mr Fiulaua adds the Deputy Chairman of the Government Caucus, West Honiara MP, Namson Tran is with the delegation because he represents the Caucus, an important political establishment in the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet because it ensures stability in the Democratic Coalition for Change Government.
He says it is normal for officials to be included in PM’s tours and those of his Ministers overseas and at home because they arrange meetings, take notes of meetings and disseminate outcomes of meetings to the media for publicity purposes.
Mr Fiulaua says the trip has been budgeted for in the 2016 Supplementary Appropriation Budget.
– By George Atkin,