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By Ofani Eremae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Sept. 5) – This man is booked to travel to New York on Thursday.

If he goes, taxpayers of Solomon Islands will foot his travelling bills.

His return ticket is estimated to cost around SI$36,000 (US$4,800) .

And as member of an official government delegation, he is entitled to a daily expense allowance of SI$846 (US$114) a day.

Taxpayers will also pay for his hotel accommodation.

For the estimated 13 days that he is going to spend abroad, he will receive about SI$11,000 (US$1,493).

But who is this man, and what is he going to do in New York?

His name is Clement Betea, Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza’s campaign manager.

Government sources revealed Sir Allan handpicked him to travel with a nine-member delegation the prime minister is leading to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Thursday.

Those booked to travel include Kemakeza, Foreign minister Laurie Chan, Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Barnabas Anga, Department of Planning Permanent Secretary Jane Wa’etara, Assistant Secretary to the PM Jeremy Manele, Foreign Affairs Desk Officer to the United Nations Bernard Bata’anisia, the PM’s Security Officer Mike Ariki, government backbencher Frank Pule and Clement Betea.

Sources say the United Nations is paying for travelling expenses of Sir Allan, Mr Chan, Mr Anga and Mrs Wa’etara.

The Solomons Government, however, will meet expenses of officials accompanying them.

The Solomon Star estimates that if Betea is allowed to go, the Government will spend at least SI$50,000 (US$6,700) to cover his trip - more than enough to build a school or clinic in the rural areas.

Foreign Affairs officials have referred all enquiries on Betea’s selection to go on the trip, to the Prime Minister’s Office.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister office confirmed that Betea was booked to travel with Sir Allan to New York.

When asked what Betea’s role would be while in New York, the spokesman said he would be going to help out with Mr Menele.

Over the past weeks, Betea has been heard telling friends he is going to New York.

It was understood he was one of the political appointees doing odd jobs in the Prime Minister’s office.

His job description is not known.

Both Sir Allan and Betea were on a constituency visit and could not be reached for comments.

September 6, 2005

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