PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare yesterday confirmed instructing the issuance of a beche-de-mer export licence to Dr Reginald Aipia of the Ontong Java Development Company Limited.
And he said his decision is based on a recent Caucus Consensus that the Democratic Coalition for Change Government should prioritise assisting indigenous Solomon Islanders in their business endeavours.
Mr Sogavare said his decision also took into consideration the fact that the company has in its possession 15 tonnes of legally harvested beche-de-mer ready for exportation and that the denial of a licence to it will only result in the sale of this beche-de-mer consignment at a lower price than what is offered by Dr Aipia and his buyer.
The Prime Minister said as rightly stated by the Solomon Star, the decision by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources not to issue a license to the Ontong Java Development Company for this legally harvested stockpile of beche-de-mer is based on the reason that Dr Aipia has a pending High Court case in relation to a consignment of beche-de-mer seized by police in 2012.
“The consignment of beche-de-mer for which Dr Aipia was arrested has a very interesting history,” Mr Sogavare said.
“For Example, in March 2013 when the ban on beche-de-mer was lifted, Dr Aipia and his buyer offered the best price which directly contrasted the low price offered by other buyers.
“The people of Ontong Java responded by withholding their products, only to find that they still have these products when the ban was imposed again.
“They did the obvious thing by battering their products with Dr Aipia for food and other essentials,” he added.
Mr Sogavare said as he had stated in his letter of instruction to the Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources, as a hardworking indigenous Solomon Islander, Dr Aipia is fully entitled to be given a licence to export this legally harvested beche-de-mer consignment and the government would be totally irresponsible to deny him that right.