CORRUPTION ALLEGED IN SOLOMONS SEA CUCUMBER BAN

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Opposition leader alleges ‘secret plan to export’ beche-de-mer

By Douglas Marau

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 15, 2012) – The beche-de-mer saga has emerged yet again with fresh claims senior police officers are assisting government members in the plan to export millions of dollars worth of beche-de-mer.

This has forced the Opposition Leaders Dr. Derek Sikua to raise their concern that the possible involvement of two very senior police officers might jeopardize the Opposition’s call for the police to investigate the matter, and confiscate every illegal stockpile of beche-de-mer and sell them off for the state.

Acting police commissioner Walter Kola who is currently in Suva to attend the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Police Commissioners meeting this week could not be reached for comments.

However, a statement from the Police Media Unit said they would not speculate on the claims as they have not received any reports on the matter.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dr. Sikua yesterday renewed calls for the ministry of fisheries not to contemplate lifting the beche-de-mer ban as yet by putting a paper to Cabinet for endorsement.

"The Ministry has to ensure all illegal stockpiles of beche-de-mer are confiscated and sold off and the returns are deposited into the government consolidated fund account before contemplating lifting the ban," Dr. Sikua said.

Dr. Sikua said doing otherwise would only confirm that what he highlighted in the media earlier about the involvement of government members in the illegal trading of beche-de-mer and the reshuffling of the Member of Parliament for East Guadalcanal Bradley Tovosia from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources was true.

Dr. Sikua said his office was also aware of an alleged secret plan to export about 200 tons of beche-de-mer’ in defiance of the ban imposed on the harvesting and exportation of the marine commodity.

The Opposition Leader said the ministry of fisheries and marine resources must advice for the maintenance of the ban until it deals with the illegal stockpile.

Last week, the Opposition also launched an attack on the government after the government’s announcement through the Attorney General to lift the ban soon was claimed to be politically motivated to allow the export of bech-de-mer worth more than SB$20-$30 million [US$2.7 to $4.1 million].

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