No timeframe for PM to step aside

Peaceful protest anticipated.


CONCERNED citizens of Solomon Islands through the outspoken Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) have called for the Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare to step aside.

No time frame to this call has been set.

According to the FSII Vice President Ishmael Nori, the call for the Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare to step aside is simply “a test of conscience”.

This, FSII added in a press conference yesterday, came about following the decision of members to have the Prime Minister step aside to let relevant authorities investigate the legitimacy of the text message correspondences between him and a mining official of Bintan SI Limited.

Bintan SI Limited is the mining firm that is contracted by Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) to mine bauxite on Rennell.

Bintan SI Limited has been widely confused with PT Mega Bintang Borneo Limited.

PT Mega Bintang Borneo Limited is an Indonesian firm which had had its licence cancelled by the Government in 2015.

In a press conference yesterday, FSII Vice President Ishmael Nori clarified that the call to have the Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare step aside has no timeframe as FSII has no mandate to allocate a timeframe.

The test of conscience, FSII added, is to see if the Prime Minister is able to hear the concerns of citizens – being a democratic country.

FSII then made reference to past Prime Ministers who stepped down following controversial issues all in the name to, what they referred to; “save the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet”.

“We do not call the shots here, it is the elected Members of Parliament that do so.

“This is simply challenging the Prime Minister’s conscience as citizens have lost confidence in the way he has conducted himself corresponding directly through text messages with a mining company,” they added.

The Prime Minister however, when queried over the issue early this week said that if the public is of the opinion that the Prime Minister should not discuss government policy with investors, “then they are mistaken especially when they only made reference to a certain portion of the conversation”.

Hon Manasseh Sogavare added the background of the text discussion was concerning the Government’s decision to impose a penal rate of 20 percent on illegally harvested bauxite on Renbel, which was done.

This rate, according to Cabinet, only applies to illegally harvested bauxite and should cease to apply when the stock was fully exported.

FSII told the press yesterday that the investigation by relevant authorities should be done as soon as applicably possible to have dark clouds and doubts by citizens over the leadership of the Prime Minister cleared.

When the press queried if FSII had consulted the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) yesterday before making the call pushed by its members, they responded saying they did not.

They further added that what is being done now is fulfilling the call of members of the Forum calling on the Prime Minister to be more transparent over explanations of his text message correspondences with a controversial mining company official and to step aside while relevant authorities investigate the legitimacy of the correspondences.

FSII has also called on the Prime Minister to explain why he was pre-empting a decision that was (is) still before Cabinet and giving assurance to the mining company official.

The press then queried what will be done if the Prime Minister and officials from the OPMC choose not to respond to the call made.

Vice President of FSII, Ishmael Nori, said the forum will then take to the option it has always chosen, and that is to peacefully protest; an example of an aware and vibrant democracy.