THE further extension of the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) to four months is too long for the second emergency period.
The Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale expressed this on Wednesday in response to announcement by the Prime Minister.
MR Wale said the government has had six months since January 2020 to prepare for covid-19. “We grant that there were significant gaps in our covid-19 preparedness at the beginning of 2020 and so it was reasonable and justifiable that a state of public emergency was required to harness resources and powers to ensure an effective response in our preparedness efforts,” said Mr Wale.
The opposition leader said the reasons given by the prime minister as necessitating another state of public emergency point more to government negligence and lack of foresight.
“Government efforts must rightly focus on the capacity of our health care system to cope if COVID-19 entered the country.
“I grant that much has been done in this regard, although there are still some gaps,”, said Mr Wale.
More still needs to be done here, but does not require another state of public emergency.
“The government must also focus its efforts on border control and the capacity of quarantine facilities and services. Again, although significant progress has been achieved in this space, some gaps remain.
“I am saddened to hear the prime minister say the government needs another four months of state of emergency to work on gaps in our legislative framework to enable effective border control and quarantine powers. “They have had four months to do this work and it is clear nothing has been done on these important issues,” said Mr Wale.
He added that it is important that the country’s laws are strengthened to ensure that this country can be able to cope and respond to the covid-19 situation without the need for a state of public emergency.
“I had hoped that the government was already working on these Bills to bring to parliament at its sitting commencing on the 27th July 2020.
“I am disappointed the government has neglected this important responsibility. It seems to me that there is no sense of accountability for these things.
“The people of Solomon Islands have been willing to accept the suppression of their rights and the negative impact on their livelihoods under a state of public emergency to afford the government the time it needed to prepare the country well.
“Strengthened laws are an important part of this preparedness. Sadly this was neglected. Parliament is put in an awkward position to reluctantly approve another state of public emergency, as it has been left with no choice by government neglect. This is highly regrettable,” concluded Mr Wale.