THE wreckage discovered within the waters of Malaita Outer Island (MOI) and currently kept at the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) belongs to the salvagers, says a tourism officer of the government.
Speaking to the Solomon Star over the weekend, the senior tourism officer from the Ministry of Culture and Toursim (MCT) explained the wrecks salvaged from the sunken ship in MOI, belongs to the locals who dived and brought the metals to surface.
The officer who is well versed with the Protection of Wrecks and War Relics Act explained that this particular law the prime minister was referring to only applies to wrecks and remains of the second world war.
“But not the remains or wrecks from the period in history prior to annexation of Solomon Islands as a British protectorate in 1893,” he pointed out.
Adding, “ those wrecks were not subjected to any law as well because the Act being referred to by the prime minister (PM) for the State to take ownership of such things only applies to world war II wrecks and relics.”
He claimed that the wrecks brought from MOI are not from the second world war.
Therefore, he stressed that those metals kept at the CBSI should be returned back to Dr. Reginald Aipia and his boys, who salvaged the underwater wrecks from a sunken ship, massacred by their forefather in the year 1800s.
The officer who wants anonymity to protect his job was responding to the statement by the PM Rick Hou in Parliament last week.
PM stated that the wrecks remain the property of the State and Minister for Culture and Tourism is responsible, as stipulated in the relevant laws of the country.
The metals were confiscated from some locals of Lord Howe and kept at the CBSI for two years now since their confiscation.
The tourism officer however, said that he believes the PM was ill advised by any legal person on that matter.
“I guess there are some politics around these metals,” he cautioned.
He then revealed that the national museum has a Bill pending for parliament to pass, which will certainly give ownership to the state for such findings from the pre-colonial history of Solomon Islands.
Thus, he suspects that this could be the reason for delay of the metals to return to its owners, so that once the new Bill is pass, those things will definitely become legal properties of the State.
“But at this time the Bill is not pass yet, those wrecks belongs to the people who salvage them underwater and should be returned to them,” he clarified.
Meanwhile, Dr. Aipia told the Solomon Star that many interest buyers heard about the news of the wrecks and visited the country to buy those metals, but they could not purchase them, since government has seized and take ownership of it.
The medical practictioner by profession said it is two years of waiting now and he wants his metals returned.
By AATAI JOHN LAUNGI