05 August 2020
Opposition leader Matthew Wale (L) and TSI CEO Ruth Liloqula.

THE Government has now come under criticism over its proposed plan to organise a direct repatriation flight to China later this month.

Both the Opposition Group and Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) on Tuesday expressed their concern over the planned charter flight in separate statements issued to the media.

The Opposition Group in its statement labeled the proposed plan to organise a flight to China as unacceptable and a show of arrogance by the government.

The statement also said DCGA is dancing to China’s tune on this planned trip.

The Group’s statement added it is appalled by the arrogance shown by the government in its plan to proceed with the chartered flight to bring 19 Chinese nationals to work on the Pacific Games 2023. 

The Group further expressed concern that the government must not gamble with the health of its people.

“Thus, bringing people in from China to work on the Pacific Games project is a gamble not worth the risk. 

“The Pacific Games should no longer be a priority under the current international health risk situation,” the statement further added.

The group said it supports the government’s policy on the fight against COVID-19 that; “… the government will safeguard the health of the SI population … it will not compromise safety and security measures to maintain Solomon Islands position as a COVID-19 free-country … and that the health of our people takes priority over all else …” 

However, the Group pointed out that the planned charter flight to China however contradicts all these good policy intentions. 

“It seems when it comes to China, this government is prepared to bend its own rules, undermine its own policies, and even compromise the health of our people. This is unacceptable! 

“The clarifications made by the Secretary to the Prime Minister (SPM) did not remove the health risks involved. All ASEAN countries, including China, are still high-risk countries with the virus. 

“Contrary to his explanations, the virus does not transmit through human beings only. Hundreds of cases both in Australia and elsewhere, have shown that people have been infected when handling infected packages and items,” the Group stated. 

The statement added that sending a Solomon Airlines aircraft and crew to China and back, is a risk that should not be taken, adding; “the country is not prepared to handle an outbreak and while we are still COVID-19 free, the government’s policy “… to maintain that must be protected at all cost …”, as the prime minister puts it.” 

Its understood government intends to arrange a flight to repatriate more than 50 Solomon Islands nationals who have been stranded in China and 19 technical people to work on the game's project.

Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) in a statement yesterday also reiterated calls for the government to call off the trip as Covid-19 related deaths are approaching millions across the globe.

TSI said the chance for bringing the coronavirus to the Solomon Islands is just too great if the flight proceeds. 

It stated the country is not fully prepared to contain any outbreak should a positive case is confirmed.

TSI also raised concern that the planned direct flight to China and return to Honiara is chartered by the Chinese government.

The organisation also suggested the postponement of the 2023 Pacific Games.