MALAITA premier Peter Ramohia pledges to engage the disputing parties in the Gwaunaru’u Airfield resolved their differences and reopen the airfield.
He said the reopening of the airfield is important for Malaita.
“I’ve already summoned ward 3 member Martin Fini to brief me about the dispute,” he said.
“I’ve also engaged Mr Fini to liaise with the Permanent Secretary for Aviation, disputing tribes, and community members to sit down, discuss, and resolve the issue,” he said.
Gwaunaru’u, once Malaita’s busiest airfield located near provincial capital Auki, was shut down on 12 November 2013 following a dispute between tribal groups.
Gwaunaru’u community chief Oscar Lufi, who issued the letter to shut down the airfield, says he’s agreed to revoke the letter when the issues surrounding the closure are addressed.
“The PS, along with the two disputing tribes, should come down and hold round table talks with us,” he said.
“They are making things harder when they are doing it from Honiara,” Mr Lufi added.
“The right thing to do is to come down to the community and reassure us about the maintenance contract.”
Signatories to the 2012 agreement, chief’s Paul Bilimaoma of Fulisisila/Biranakwao and Casper Hane’e of Toloabu/Rofa tribe, also assured the provincial government of their support to resolve the issues and reopen the airfield.
Mr Hane’e the closure was not due to land dispute.
“It is the awarding of maintenance work to contractors by the Aviation PS Francis Lomo that sparked the dispute between tribal groups,” he said.
“The MOU clearly stated that maintenance work should be carried out by the community.
“However awarding of contract to members of the two disputing tribes for three month each does not go down well with the community members.
“It breached the MOU, which community leaders saw as betrayal of trust.”
Chief Hane’e said talks to agree on the reopening of the airport should be initiated by the ministry responsible.
Mr Lomo when contacted said he is also taking steps to hold talks with the disputing parties and community members.
“Good that the two disputing parties have agreed and supported efforts to reopen the airfield,” Mr Lomo said.
“The 2012 MOU is opened for opportunistic groups to take advantage of the situation,” Mr Lomo said.
“The core issue has been identified and the way forward is to review the MOU and amend it,” Mr Lomo said.
“I will consult the two disputing tribes, community representative on this,” he said.
By TEDDY KAFO