Solomon Star

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (September 17, 2009) – Does Finance minister Snyder Rini have the interest of this nation at heart? We doubt.

It seems, judging from his latest decision, his interest and concerns are somewhere else.

The recent $1.2 million [US$164, 000] fine the High Court imposed on two Asians and the forfeiture of their tug-boat to the state was a big win for the nation.

These two deliberately and blatantly breached our Customs and Excise laws by secretly importing goods into the country.

In other words, they were trying to steal money that is rightly due to our struggling nation.Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer said it well in his landmark ruling of the case in July this year.

But Mr. Rini has now turned things around.

He has ordered Customs authorities to release the boat back to its Malaysian owner, for a mere $250,000 [US$34, 000].

The country could have earned more, especially at these difficult financial times, had Customs been given the chance to sell the boat.

But Rini, the man who should be looking for more sources of funding for our struggling economy, seemed not care.

He could have done better had he tell the Malaysian boat owners, when they sent him the appeal, that the High Court of Solomon Islands has made its ruling.

Instead, he decided to use his powers under the Customs and Excise Act to release the boat to its owners at what many see as a ‘give-away price".

The reasons he outlined as basis for his decision are as good as the decision itself.

In doing what he did, Rini had betrayed the nation and undermined the good work officials in the Customs department are doing.

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