THIS is my response to a number of articles you published over the past few days on matters regarding the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA.
Let me first confirm that in exercise of the powers conferred upon us, the Minister of Infrastructure Development and the Minister of Finance, by Regulation 14 (1) of the State-owned Enterprise Act (No. 7 of 2007) and the powers conferred on the Minister of Infrastructure Development under Section 7 (1) of the Ports Act (cap. 161), we, as Accountable and Responsible Ministers of SI Ports have terminated Mr Leni as a director of SI Ports Authority effective today being Wednesday 11th September 2013.
For us to take such actions on a very important appointment is no small matter and I must say that we have done so only in what we see as best for SI Ports.
The reasoning that Mr Leni passed on to the public through the media is far from the truth and irrelevant and are only meant to dissuade otherwise.
Let me also confirm that the CEO (Barile) of SI Ports is a long time personal friend of mine, so as Mr Leni.
One of the first tasks I undertook when I become the Accountable and Responsible Minister of SI Ports was to confirm Mr Leni’s appointment as director and Chairman of SI Ports Authority.
I asked no question. I did not ask for the shortlisted candidates as required by the SOE Act.
I simply went on and appointed him as a friend whom, I thought, I can work with.
I must confess that we removed Leni knowing nothing about what is going on at the SI Ports, we have no idea on how Ports is doing in terms of economic performance, we have no idea on future plans, we have no idea on operations at Ports and so on, we know nothing about the board, we just know nothing.
We are in total dark because since appointing the board and Leni as Chair 18 months ago, we have had not a single briefing, no single paper from the Chairman of the Board.
On the other hand, what we observed coming out of the board was clear arrogance and persisting underestimation of us the Accountable and Responsible Ministers for the SI Ports and this termination is not the last.
In his attempt to gain outside sympathy, Leni has tried to label dealings I had with SI Ports before I appointed him as director of Ports as corrupt particularly capitalising on the personal relationship I had with Barile as the basis for the kind of corruption he wanted to portray on me.
Let me first say that I believe we are mature enough to separate things here.
In fact, I gained nothing at all from Barile as CEO Ports.
On the other hand, I have all the reasons to support Leni here and the board and use this time to get back to Barile and kick him out of Ports.
Instead, I have decided to put the personal grudges I may have with the Ports and Barile aside and look at SI Ports as the Accountable and Responsible Minister for SI Ports.
Over the six years I oversee Renbel Shipping since 2005, I continued to plead with Barile if he could allocate one of the Ports’ many cargo sheds at Point Cruz for the use of Renbel Shipping.
Over this same period, he continued to allocate and give Sheds to other shipping companies including those who owned no ships while he continued to ignore my requests.
Needless to say, Renbel Shipping was never given any shed.
On the matter of SI Ports digging and excavating at my piece of land at West Kola’a Ridge, let me say that that was a terrible deal.
Right now SI Ports is still desperate for landfill as it tries to claim the Western end of its ports area for more storage space.
So over the past years, SI Ports have been digging everywhere in town so there is nothing sinister about Ports digging at my place.
In over two months SI Ports removed stones, boulders and gravels from my land at an estimated commercial value of no less than $500,000.
After discussing this, the CEO SI Ports agreed to pay me $57,000 for the materials (as part of the deal) of which I eventually received a lousy $25,000 (from memory), not even enough to cover the food and drinks I was providing for the digging work; SI Ports and the CEO had forcefully charged $31,000 against outstanding Renbel Shipping port fees.
The truth about these digging was that SI Ports ripped me off and I will never allow them to take any more gravel from my place.
During the rough weather season last September, SI Ports towed MV Renbel away from its safe anchorage outside the fuel wharf at Point Cruz to an unsafe anchorage outside Ranadi.
For six days and nights, I continued to request SI Ports through the CEO to return the ship to Point Cruz.
Needless to say, SI Ports refused to return the Ship and that was the end of things.
Where is corruption in all these?
All I have here as I said are powerful reasons for me to standby Leni as Chairman and get back to Barile if I were to take things personally.
One last thing I want to bring in here is that my wife works for the same company that Leni works for, in fact Leni is one of her bosses and I pity her because knowing the kind of person he is, he will want to ignore her.
I decided however to put aside personal side of things and perform my duty as the Accountable and Responsible Minister for SI Ports.
As to the removal of the CEO Barile by the board, all I had wanted was for the board to undertake some independent investigations into the management matters that they were concerned about.
Also, the reporting that the board had based its actions on is a board report compiled by the Deputy Chair who is a sister of the former CEO whom Barile replaced not so long ago.
I believe that was not a tough ask.
On the other hand, it was a way of seeing that justice is done not only to the board but also to those who are affected.
This continues to be my stand.
By Seth Gukuna
Accountable and Responsible Minister for SI Ports