POPULAR concern citizens group, the Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) supports the actions taken by Solomon Islands Port Authority (SIPA) employees.
The group issued a statement in light of the employees call through the Workers Union of Solomon Islands (WUSI) early this week.
WUSI representing two hundred and twenty members, all employees of SIPA is calling for the immediate removal of the SIPA Board and part of its management.
In a statement yesterday, Chief Executive Officer of FSII, Benjamin Afuga said, his group is very concern, describing it as a serious matter of concern for all Solomon Islands.
He said, the 28 days notice issued by the workers is indeed a priority matter of concern.
“The SIPA employees both in Honiara and Noro are the key to all port matters, which businesses and ordinary citizens depend on for all importation and exportation.
“Their grievances must never be taken lightly as it has the potential to cause both economic and personal hardship to all port matters,”Mr Afuga said in the statement.
In a SIPA employees statement issued Sunday, WUSI said the workers want SIPA Board Chairman Nollen Leni, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Collin Yow and ten Singaporean consultants currently engaged by the Solomon Islands Ports Authority to be removed.
They further demanded the immediate halt to the “Reform Programme” initiated by the Singaporean consultants, describing the programme as a clever cover up for what appears to be a money making scheme the consultants have set up at the country’s Ports Authority with the support of Mr. Leni and Mr. Yow.
Afuga said, these allegations need quick and thorough investigations by the government and should never take be taken for granted or push it under the top files.
“FSII fully support the formal request submitted by WUSI for an independent investigation into how the SI Ports Authority had allegedly spent a total of $29m between May 2013 and December 2014, following the engagement of the ten Singaporean consultants.
“I want the government to act swiftly before the workers take a strike action which will severely affect businesses and individuals, who depend on the country’s port services for their survival”, Afuga warned.
Meanwhile Tony Kagovai, the General Secretary of the Workers Union of Solomon Islands confirmed that they have issued a 28 days strike notice in support of their demands and have taken these actions following two general meetings held in Honiara last week.
Kogavai also confirmed submitting a formal request to the government, accompanied by supporting documents signed by its members in Honiara and Noro.
He said among other areas, he wants the investigations to also look into reports that the consultants are working with the Board and management on a plan for them to build a commercial complex on an area owned by SIPA at Kukum and a multi-storey building complex on a prime piece of land owned by SIPA opposite the NPF building in the heart of Honiara.
Kagovai also wants the investigation to determine information that said the consultants are offering to fund these two building complexes and use them for about thirty years before handing them over to SIPA.
“Again this is very serious and must be immediately investigated by an independent body comprising of persons with high integrity who cannot be bought or swayed,” Afuga said.
“This country is being invaded by clever wolves, dressed in sheepskins and appeared to be genuine with their cunning mode of doing businesses,” he added.
When asked who did they submitted their request for investigations to, Kagovai said their formal request has been submitted to the Minister responsible for the Solomon Islands Ports Authority, Hon Stanley Sofu.
Attempts to get confirmation from Hon. Sofu were not successful.
But last night defending SIPA a government officer through the forum said, Ports reform is heading on the right direction.
“This was commendable by big shipping liners as turn-over for unloading and reloading has improved in recent months.
“Financial performance has also improved as a lot of cost cutting or loopholes were identified and stopped.”
– FSII News