Dear Editor – Next week the 4th Regional Conference on Disability will take place at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, Fiji, from the 16th to 20th February.
The conference to be officially opened by the Honourable Mr. Vorege Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, is funded by the Australian Government under its Australian Aid Program.
The keynote address at the Plenary Session will be given by Her Excellency, Margaret Twomey, the Head of the Australian Mission at the Australian High Commission in Suva.
Australian Aid has also funded the trip to the Conference of two representatives of the Solomon Islands Disabled Association, Mr.Charles Maeke , youth with a disability and who is the Chair of the Regional Youth Caucus, and the President of the People with Disabilities in the Solomons, Mr. Casper J Fa’asala.
Mr. Maeke will address the Conference, on the first day, when he will speak on the topic of ‘Access to skills development and entrepreneurship for youth with disabilities in the Solomon Islands.’
The Conference is organized by the Pacific Disability Forum in close cooperation with the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation.
The Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) organizes the a biennial conference as a platform for disability development partners, practitioners and service providers to dialogue and discuss issues relating to the advancement of disability inclusive development in the region. This will be the fourth regional conference and it is hoped the outcome of the Conference will assist in progressing the work on disability at the national and regional level.
My purely personal view of this conference, while mindful of the support given by the Australian Government, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), both in funding the Conference and aiding the attendance of the two Solomon Islands delegates, is the 4 day Conference must not end up merely as a ‘talking shop’ because while support and aid for the disabled is far more effective in Fiji and in some other Pacific countries. it is not yet the case back home.
Participants at the conference will include representatives of UNICEF, the International Labor Organization (ILO) the Pacific Islands Forum, Queensland University of Technology and the United Nations. It is very much hoped that Solomon Islands will be rewarded by these representatives with financial aid to advance their much needed requirements in terms of facilities, educational placement and occupational opportunities.
The reality in the Solomon Islands is that the Disabled Association has been offered a building to be used as a Disability Training Centre but it needs basic repairs before it can be occupied and used to give much needed aid to the disabled. Appeals, so far, for money to repair the facility has gone unheard.
The President of the People with Disabilities in the Solomon Islands, Mr. Casper J Fa’asala has already written a 17 page Strategic Development Plan for the advancement of his Association in order to make the plan available to the appropriate Minister of the new CDD administration but he has been unable to acquire the means to print, bind and distribute the much needed strategy locally and to international donors.
This week that remain before the two Solomon Islands delegates leave for Fiji it is my earnest appeal that Mr. Fa’asala be given the assistance he needs to have his plan made ready for distribution to the representatives he will meet and discuss with at the Fiji Conference.
It is also my earnest wish that local help might be forthcoming from, say, Rotary International, the Chamber of Commerce or, indeed, the Solomon Islands Government, to help the disabled occupy their proposed training centre by either undertaking the basic repairs to make the centre functional and habitable, or give the Association the money needed to carry out the necessary repairs.
People with Disabilities Solomon Islands is a non-profit organization for people with disabilities in the country and is registered under the Charities Trust Act (Cap 55) of 1996.
The organization has a General Bank Account with the ANZ Bank which is managed by the Executive Board under the name “Disabled People Association of Solomon Islands. The account details are :
Australian and New Zealand Banking Corporation
Account Number: 4233758.
Come on everybody let us see our delegates go to Fiji able to take with them their Strategic Plan and let them come home in the knowledge that their designated Disabled Centre will be made ready for their just causes in support of our disabled people, men, woman and the youths.
Former Commissioner of Police