I read with interest the continuous publication in this paper relating to the proposed Fiu hydro Project on Malaita.
The realisation of phases 10 and 11 and declaration of the six core tribes as appeared in an article on 27th June, 2016 draws particular interest. Whilst there is so much publicity on the aspects of the project, I am interested on the untold side of the story. A story that is prowling in the murky waters of uncertainty and confusion amongst those who are now left isolated, high and dry in total disarray and disappointment.
As it were, togetherness and dedication was the status quo amongst the resource owners until lately when disparities began to surface. The subtlety of disintegration becomes apparent reflective through frequent private meetings conducted only amongst a selected minority. Most resource owners who are parties to the initial MOU and MOA are being left out on the way side, hence having the opinion that they are being used as stepping stones for the benefit of a minority. Questions were asked on certain issues regarding this development.
Prior to the survey by Azimuth in March 2016, there was no re-confirmation of the actual project site as per the final feasibility study report referenced TA-8130 SOL: PREP- Fiu Hydro Project by SMEC International PTY. The feasibility study indicated there were two catchment sites, one of which was identified as a subterranean stream with sink holes that was considered to be unsuitable for the powerhouse development (SMEC Feasibility Study Report 1996, p6). Accordingly the question of properly checking the two sites and subsequently identifying the correct one in accordance with the SMEC feasibility study report is imperative. I doubted this was done by the committee and those responsible.
On another story, the current site surveyed by Azimuth is now the focus of a standoff that is delaying the acquisition process. It is also indicative that a court case might be looming unless the matter is resolved amicably with the related party. Although the option of pursing a rejection and subsequent striking off by the courts can be explored; similar to a land appeal case no: 5/2014, the customary interests of the resource owner is something that cannot be denied and overruled. It was noted that the full site acquisition by Solomon power for this development should have eventuated in June 2016. However this has never occurred owing to this standoff. The continuous publication and allusion of togetherness is questionable given the facts surrounding this particular case.
The position of the taskforce committee currently spearheading the project is also questionable. As it were, the committee was established on an adhoc bases and supposed to be an interim committee until a reputable legitimate body was formed. However, to date no institutional body was established. The propensity for conflicts of interest and possible misappropriation of funds cannot be ruled out. This is a national project and one that needs an institutionalized body when dealing with the government and other key stakeholders.
The implementation of the committee’s strategic work plan is even more interesting. It was noted that the budget component in the strategic work plan is $15,000 per awareness program. The actual expending of funds in previous programs was indicated to be much lesser than what was budgeted for. Hence, this raises the question – where the balances of the funds are expended. In this, proper financial reporting and transparency relating to the full utilisation of funds is vitally important.
Much of the untold side of the story can be exposed but I would rather pen off for now. Whatever is done, it must not be forgotten that the ultimatum of six months till December 2016 has been given. The last thing we want is for this national project to be coloured by any misguided hidden agenda.
Chris. M. Lauramo
Central Kwaraáe Constituency