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SOLOMONS’ BECHE-DE-MER CONTROVERSY CONTINUES PM refutes Opposition claims of stockpile, asks for proof

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 19, 2012) – Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Gordon Darcy Lilo has asked the Opposition leader, Dr. Derek Sikua, to produce the evidence of the existence of stocks of beche-de-mer by today.

Mr. Lilo was responding to claims made by the opposition leader last week that he (Sikua) has evidence of a stock of almost 150-200 tons of beche-de-mer worth millions of dollars, secretly planned by certain people including police and government officials to be exported as the government lifts the ban.

Mr. Sikua claimed the move to reshuffle the portfolio’s leadership to Bernard Ghiro is part of the ploy to eventually lift the ban to pave way for the export.

In welcoming the news that the Opposition leader has in his possession evidence of the existence of a stockpile of beche-de-mer, the Prime Minister urged his rival to produce the evidence for authorities to act on.

"I am happy that the leader of Opposition has in his possession such evidence on this matter that could have been hidden from the government, or probably the government is not made aware. I kindly ask the Opposition leader to produce evidence by today so that appropriate action can be taken against those responsible."

Mr. Lilo said if the Opposition leader fails to produce the evidence by today, he (Sikua) may be seen as lying to the nation or deliberately intended to fabricate information to discredit the government.

"Producing evidence could be seen by the public as proactively assisting the government, based on a bi-partisan approach to clean up the beche-de-mer industry in the country. These evidences must be produced to the appropriate government authorities in order for the matter to be dealt with immediately."

The Prime Minister reiterated that the ban is still in place based on scientific reports.

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