By WILSON SAENI
MALAITA Provincial Government (MPG) is demanding an explanation from the government as to why medical equipment and supplies to support the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19) was seized without any reasons.
The apprehension of the equipment has affected on the ongoing preventive effort by MPG to prepare the province from any suspected COVID-19 cases from reaching the province.
This came after the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) apprehended medical equipment and supplies bound for the province last week.
The action was dubbed a major set back for the province’s preparedness plans.
The incident happened on Thursday just before the essential humanitarian medical supplies were handed over to the MARA government.
The Daniel Suidani led MARA government has been actively trying its best to keep the most populated province in the country safe from the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting them with means to sustain themselves.
In so doing, the government had undertaken a number of activities which included the distribution of soaps, encouraging hygiene to its people, and launching of a 100 days of planting which allow Malaitans to produce their own food.
It also supplied vegetable and rice seedlings, distributed knives and bags of rice to affected communities, and liaised with Malaita Province bases police and health authorities to ensure Malaita is COVID-19 free.
The MARA government’s fight against COVID-19 should have been further boosted with the arrival of essential humanitarian medical supplies last week.
However, this was denied when police acted on directives believed to be from the Attorney General’s (AG) Office intercepted and confiscated the supplies.
The action by Police and the Attorney General did not go down well with Premier Daniel Suidani who described the action as inhumane which did not reflect a government that professed to ‘leave no one behind.’
Premier Suidani further iterated that the action by the police is questionable especially when the equipment was seized from Customs without a warrant.
He said the province had already paid the import duty and was cleared by Customs and Excise Division.
The decision to confiscate and seize the supplies without a valid reason to back the police action is a violation of the laws of the land, the premier said.
Asked if he could confirm the source of the essential humanitarian medical supplies, the premier said the supplies are part of a humanitarian donation from ROC to support Malaita's fight against COVID-19.
Yesterday, the Suidani-led government issued a statement calling on the Acting Commissioner of Police and Attorney General to explain the legal basis for the police’s action.
"MARA Government calls on the Commissioner of Police and Attorney General to explain the legal basis for holding up this life-saving equipment," the premier demanded.
The equipment included one set of thermal image cameras plus a monitor and two thermal temperature cameras to check people for fevers upon entry to Malaita.
"This is a setback to the fight against the virus from entering Malaita and such action is contradicting the purpose for which a State of Public Emergency is declared.
"We would like to know why these lifesaving supplies for Malaita were held up," Suidani stressed.
Yesterday, an online campaign under the banner ‘Malaita Lives Matters, Release COVID-19 Equipment’ was initiated to call for the release for the medical items.
All local Facebook users have been asked to post the message on their status.
And many have joined the campaign by posting the message on the Facebook page.
Meanwhile, a number of locals have expressed their concern over the action because in times like this everyone must support each other.
A Facebook user said this latest action by the government does not reflect it's much-promoted the theme; ‘Iumi Tugeda Against COVID-19.’
Apart from receiving medical equipment and supplies, Taiwan also donated bags of rice to support communities that are facing food problems.
Taiwan’s support to Malaita has also caused media debate between the government and the opposition office last week.