A round up of recent local news stories
Undoubtedly, when looking at the news stories of the past week or so, and posted on my website www.solomonislandsinfocus.com. the most significant and encouraging news event was the story that the six people that went missing at sea when travelling in an outboard motorised boat from Kala Bay in Santa Cruz Island to the Reef Islands in Temotu Province on 11 July were all found safe and well near Ulawa Islands despite having been adrift for practically 3 weeks.
A search had including Police and Health officials at Lata as well as a New Zealand Defence Force Orion aircraft and a helicopter from Honiara,
The survival of the six passengers should serve to illustrate, once again, that boats of all sizes, should be properly equipped with life saving equipment and fully provisioned before setting out to sea.
The new Japanese New Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Mr. Morimoto Yasuhiro presented his Letter of Credence to the Governor General His Excellency Sir David Vunagi, GCMG, on the 30th July, 2020.
“H.E Yasuhiro conveyed the cordial greetings of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and the desire to maintain and promote the friendship and goodwill which happily exist between both nations.
“I am firmly determined to do my best to fulfill my important missions, in such manner as to merit Your Excellency’s esteem and trust.
“I sincerely hope that Your Excellency and the people of Solomon Islands will extend generous understanding and kind cooperation to me in the performance of my duty,” he remarked adding that his appointment will further promote and expand excellent relations with Japan in many fields.
The Governor General, upon accepting the credentials, conveyed to His Excellency, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the good people of Japan, his best wishes for good health in the COVID-19 era and the warm greetings from the Government and people of the Solomon Islands.
New Commissioner of Police
The Solomon Islands has appointed a local police commissioner for the first time in 19 years, and he is wished well on his appointment.
Commissioner Mostyn Mangau was sworn-in by the Governor-General Sir David Vunagi, GCMG.
He had been acting in the role since November last year when his predecessor Matthew Varley's tenure ended.
Speaking at his swearing in ceremony Mr. Mangau, who is from Ontong Java in Malaita Province, said he was humbled by the new opportunity to serve Solomon Islanders.
Mr.Mangau said that a regional assistance mission sanctioned by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and led by Australia and New Zealand helped restore law and order and start Solomon Islands recovery.
Commonly referred to locally by its acronym RAMSI the mission also helped rebuild the local police force from the ground up starting by laying off most of the officers who played an active role in the conflict.
“With the assistance from Australia and New Zealand as well as the Pacific island countries under the banner of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), the RSIPF has become a more professional police force striving to maintain high integrity and the confidence of the people it has been mandated to serve,”Mangau said.
The new Commissioner, having joined the police in 1996, will well remember the very poor state of the local police service in 1996 and 1997 when the total establishment was less than 700 personnel and a strict moratorium was in place preventing recruitment, when police facilities were in a very bad state of repair and police housing deplorable and inadequate, when policemen and policemen and police women had shabby uniform and no replacements, when salaries were often unpaid and transport and communication wholly inadequate.
Mr Mangau is supported in his role as Commissioner of Police by an army of more than 40 foreign police advisors and guarantees of ongoing policing support by way of training and operational assistance, as required, by Australia that has most recently taken on a more direct regional security role than was the case with a claimed foreign policy failure to aid the Solomon Islands (when appeals were made for help) in 1999, despite a security review having been conducted by Australia at the request of the Solomon Islands Government, in which all the limitations of the police service were apparent, but financial support, and other forms of support were not forthcoming until 2003 and for some 13 years thereafter, under RAMSI.
About 1342 people were tested for COVID-19 and to date, all have tested negative for COVID-19.
“That was according to the Minister for Health and Medical Services Dickson Mua.
The Minister told the parliament when contributing to the debate on the motion to approve the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) moved by the Prime Minister.
“I want to reemphasize that to date there have been no positive COVID-19 cases in the Solomon Islands,” he further added.
“This put the Solomon Islands as one of the very few countries in the world a COVID-19 free country.
“While this is a welcoming news, Minister Mua said the global COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to accelerate.”
Vigilance and border protection
Although the Solomon Islands remains free from Covid-19, the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) has been extended through a Parliament resolution for another four months.
The Prime Minister had spoken about the need for vigilance and had said there was no room for complacency given the coronavirus threat, especially given the recent spike of Covid-19 cases in Papua New Guinea and the vulnerable border areas between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Radio New Zealand reported that the Bougainville Government was also planning to tighten restrictions to ensure Covid-19 doesn't spread from the Papua New Guinea mainland.
There have now been 63 cases, mostly in Port Moresby, and two deaths with probable Covid-links.For months Bougainville has had tight restrictions on flights and ships coming into the autonomous region, while there had been limits on the movement of people within the area.
In a statement President John Momis said these measures were to be "further strengthened with enhanced border surveillance" at entry points.
He said to ensure Bougainville remained free of the coronavirus, the Emergency Controller would make announcements shortly to strengthen current measures.
Mr Momis said the region, with the support of its development partners, now had quarantine and isolation quarters, along with triage facilities.”