Police clarify seizure of COVID-19 medical supplies to Malaita Province
POLICE say they seized COVID-19 medical supplies Taiwan donated to Malaita Province because of the “suspicious” nature of the consignment.
There was an uproar over the police action from Malaita Province and its supporters after police confiscated the supplies from Customs last week.
But acting police chief Mostyn Mangau said the manner in which the supplies were sent was suspicious in nature.
“The three consignments were shipped from Chinese Taipei’s (Taiwan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Shuang Ho Hospital to Honiara via DHL,” Mangau said.
“Any it was addressed to a Mr. Richard Olita, a private individual, on Post Office Box 1232 of Kaibia Settlement, Honiara and not the Malaita Provincial Executive or any other government agency,” he added.
Mangau said the consignment included an infrared thermal imaging camera, medical masks, infrared thermal imager, television, and a tripod.
He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MFAET) was notified as the consignment was sent from MOFA through diplomatic pouch.
“The information linked with the consignments including the name of the person and the post office box has raised a number of concerns over the suspicious nature surrounding the importation of the cargoes which has prompted the government to refer the matter to the RSIPF.
“Further, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) is not diplomatically recognized in the Solomon Islands and as such, does not enjoy privileges accorded to the Diplomatic Community including the use of a diplomatic pouch.
“The use of diplomatic pouch when the Solomon Islands no longer recognizes Chinese Taipei could be an attempt to bypass necessary processes by certain individuals and could amount to a criminal offence by unlawfully using diplomatic privileges to avoid scrutiny,” the statement said.
“As a result of these breaches and false use of diplomatic privileges, inconsistent and vague information on the consignments, the government has recommended that the RSIPF carry out further investigation into the matter and the consignments are held until investigations are completed.”
Mangau said police are prioritizing the investigations and taking necessary actions as they see fit.
He said Government advice is that all COVID-19 equipment donated for use in the Solomon Islands by any government agencies, must be channeled through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) or other relevant authorities that are responsible for receiving charitable donations.
He added the Ministry of Health has experts and specialists who are able to verify the quality of any equipment that is to be used in the Solomon Islands in the fight against COVID-19.
A spokesman for Malaita Province said last night they will make a reply to the police statement.