Loopholes in Acts need tightening, says Hou
By ANDREW FANASIA
The oil spill disaster at Rennell Island should prompt future governments to rectify loopholes in many of our current legislations.
Caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou admitted that this is a big lesson for his government and the future government.
“This incident has demonstrated to us the inadequacy of the legal and legislative provisions to respond effectively and to prevent repeats of such situations in future,” Hou said.
He further explained that none of our relevant legislations provide for emergency actions in the event there is such an accident.
Mr Hou added that both the Environmental Act and the Minerals and Mines Act only have process in place to deal with the normal process that requires many steps and many weeks to complete.
“Both these Acts must now be reviewed considering this disaster to ensure they are full-proof and they hold the responsible parties totally responsible and the responsible parties must act within 24-48 hours to address issues,” Hou said.
He said in this case the response plan to the disaster was ready 28 days after the original accident, and 15 days after oil leak has commenced.
The Minerals and Mining Act also accords the price setting powers for minerals to the Minister of Mines and Minerals.
Hou said this power needs to be vested with the ministry responsible for government revenues – the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.
The caretaker PM further added that Solomon Islands Maritime Authority Act – is totally inadequate in dealing with a situation such as this.
“To be frank there is no provision at all for SIMSA to have teeth in this disaster. This must be rectified immediately through an urgent review of the said legislation,” Hou insisted.
He explained that the power to approve Sufferance wharfs must also be considered.
Sufferance Wharf means any place, other than an approved place of loading or unloading at which the Comptroller (of Customs) may, in his (/ her) discretion, and under such conditions and in such manner as he may direct, either generally or in any particular case, allow any goods to be loaded or unloaded.
“Currently the approval of such wharfs/ports, which include Kangava Bay and three others in Rennell (Tanahu Bay, Lughugi Bay, and Bonota Bay) are done almost totally to enable duty/tax chargeable economic activities.
“The conditions that need to be met by shippers only cover typical roles under the Customs and Excise Act section dealing with wharfs and collections of duties and tax,” Hou explained
He insisted that all approvals for sufferance wharfs from this point on must now recognise other laws and include conditions prescribed hereunder such as those under the Environmental Act etc to be included in the conditions of approval.
“Unforeseen events such as what we see here, ship wrecks etc must also be included in the conditions for withdrawal of the approval of the sufferance wharf,” he added.