MALAITA OFFICIAL DOUBTS SOLOMONS ARTS FESTIVAL BUDGET

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‘Unorganized and irresponsible’ committee hinders preparations

By Daniel Namosuaia HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 2, 2012) – Malaita province premier Edwin Suibaea remained doubtful over co-hosting the Pacific Arts Festival since no clear indication was forthcoming from the festival national organizing committee (NOC).

This follows their meeting last week during which premier Suibaea and his delegation went back to Auki empty handed.

During the meeting premier Suibaea and his delegation submitted Malaita’s SB$40 million [US$5.4 million] budget to NOC to discuss and came up with a decision but until today no feedback was received.

This caused confusion and doubt to Malaita province whether they will be co-hosting the event or not.

Chairlady of the pacific arts festival last week revealed to The Solomon Star that only SB$2 million [US$270,000] was approved by their committee for Malaita and they should be formally notified over the weekend.

But Mr. Suibaea and Malaita festival coordinator Jackson Leaburi said they never received a response from NOC.

They said no clear indication has come from NOC following their budget meeting.

Interestingly, contradictory comments came from the festival director Robert Au stating a representative from Malaita will travel over to Honiara to formally resubmit their budget before the board’s meeting this Saturday.

And any formal announcement about the budget will be made known next week, he said.

But premier Suibaea is confused and questioned what budget Mr. Au is talking about.

He said they have already submitted their budget to NOC on Monday last week and heard nothing from them until today.

"Is Mr. Au dreaming? Or is he still awake?" Mr. Suibaea questioned.

"What budget is Mr. Au talking about? We already submitted our budget and we need an urgent response from NOC and for them to pump in what we requested to start off with work," Mr. Suibaea said.

Malaita festival coordinator Leaburi said it is a clear indication NOC and the festival board has no responsibility over this as indicated by their excuses and contradictory comments and for dragging the time.

"I assumed our SB$40 million budget will go through since we heard nothing from NOC," he said.

Mr. Leaburi said his committee had opened a bank account but nothing has yet been deposited into the account. So they started to wonder what is really going on.

"Is it something to do with the committee or the government?" they questioned.

Even no positive response came from the director and his committee to one of the Malaita representatives who is still in Honiara awaiting any decision on the budget, they said.

It was reported this representative was never updated nor told of anything regarding the budget. But said somebody else mentioned to him about the SB$2 million to be allocated for Malaita province, the two officials said.

"The only advice from the festival director was for Malaita to do whatever they can with the SB$2 million, and if need arises along the way they will pump in more funds."

But Mr. Leaburi said this is a clear indication that NOC is really unorganized and irresponsible.

He said Malaita province is prepared to co-host and showcase true Malaita and its unique cultures and people to the region.

"And display the true festival theme rather than just artificial preparations like what’s done in Honiara," Mr. Leaburi said. "This is golden opportunity to keep the mass population of Malaitans back on their Island rather than traveling to Honiara to cause other associated problems."

In addition these venues will be used by the province for future events since there is no proper venue available to host major cultural and tourism events in Auki, he said.

Meanwhile Mr. Leaburi said he will call a meeting with his fourteen sub-committees to revisit the budget and probably re-submit it to NOC.

"But anything below SB$2 million would be impossible for Malaita to co-host the event."

Suibaea also echoed same sentiments but said his executive will have the final say in any allocated budget.

He said his executive would rather concentrate on much important provincial matters than wasting time to wait in confusion over this festival event.

The premier said the province need urgent response from NOC and relevant authorities since they have no more time to waste.

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