Print this page

The potential fallout from the SIPA saga

21 March 2016

Shortly before the then deputy prime minister forced Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s hand to push me to jump ship last July, I had a number of visits by displaced or aggrieved employees of the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA).

This was at the time Mr Colin Yow had just taken over as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SIPA. These former employees felt that I could help them by informing that the new CEO is here to “drain” SIPA off its financial resources.

“If you don’t believe it, watch,” they warned me.

In the two meetings I had with them, they showed me court documents, which ordered SIPA management to reinstate the workers until the Trade Dispute Panel had convened to consider their grievances.

It would appear SIPA management had ignored the High Court ruling. But I provided the government a brief on the matter, hoping that some outcome would be arrived at thereby putting an end to what is now a protracted SIPA saga.

Shortly after these meetings with former employees and my report, Prime Minister Sogavare acted on his deputy’s threat to resign if I was not removed. In the deputy’s view, I should go because causing unease. Who was to say, he followed shortly thereafter, forced to jump from a much higher political altitude.

Like a consuming fire, the swirling controversy surrounding the SIPA CEO could take everyone down with him if the matter is not handled with tact and care.

There are only two real issues here. Politics and money aside, these two issues are very simple to sort out.

The first is, did Mr Yow break any laws of the Solomon Islands in his alleged unapproved spending spree?

In dealing with the first issue, a potential way forward or solution for the Prime Minister might be to urgently determine, sub-rosa, whether the reports of unapproved spendings at SIPA constitute any breach or breaches of the laws of the Solomon Islands.

The second is the question of possible money laundering in the second payment for the rice imports from Vietnam via Singapore.

On the second point, consideration should be given to whether lodging a Commercial Crime Report to the Singapore Police Commercial Affairs Department could shed any light on the reports that “the second payment of USD$740, 000 (about SBD5, 705, 400) for the rice was made to a bank account with a different address from the initial address given for the Singapore company, Infrastructure and Industrial PTE Ltd, which was set up to handle the rice purchases.

It is also alleged that the bank account belong to a couple who have no connection whatsoever with the company."

It is a simple process too. For example, investigation into offences of a commercial or financial nature is carried out in Singapore by the various police divisions and CAD.

If there is suspicion that an individual or a company has committed such offences you may lodge a police report of the matter at any Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC), police post or if necessary, at CAD. Your report will be duly considered by the CAD Duty Officer if the matter is to be dealt with by CAD.

Alternatively, if it is suspected that an individual or company has committed a criminal offence of a commercial nature under the legislations enforced by CAD, a 'Police Report' may be lodged with CAD.

Written report may be sent to:

Commercial Affairs Department
391 New Bridge Road #06-701
Police Cantonment Complex Block D
Singapore 088762

The following information should be contained in the report:

•An account of the relevant facts;

•Copies of the relevant documents, if available; and

•Your name, NRIC / passport number, contact number and address.

Complaint can be made in Person as well. Based on the allegations being widely reported in Solomon Islands, it is not for anyone to know or say whether Mr Yow has contravened any of the current laws of the Solomon Islands or those of Singapore but prima facie it could very well be.

In Singapore, the registration of a company must be in the names of legitimate company owners and a false declaration made on registration could very well breach the statutory provision of the laws relating to business registration.

If Mr Yow could be proved to have been involved in a breach of the Singapore law then the Prime Minister could only be seen to be acting in accordance with justice and any internal criticism mitigated if not squashed completely.

By Alfred Sasako




Latest from Editor