Despite Attacks, Solomons PM Begins Asia Trip With Coalition Intact

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Opposition criticizes acting PM choice while Lilo goes abroad

By Eddie Osifelo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 18, 2012) – Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo left yesterday for his two weeks Asian trip with no defection by members in the coalition to the Opposition.

Most of his members turned up at Honiara International Airport to bid him farewell with his small delegation that travelled through Brisbane before heading to Taiwan and Japan in the coming days.

This was despite barrages of allegations leveled by Opposition leader Dr Derek Sikua against the PM, which failed to attract members from other camp to his side.

Missing on the tarmac were Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga, Minister for Finance and Treasury Rick Hou, and Steve Abana.

Maelanga and Hou left with delegation of Malaita province to Israel last Sunday as part of the development agreement signed by both parties recently.

Abana was believed to leave yesterday morning to Fiji on a private arrangement.

Speaking before traditional partners from Taiwan, Japan and Australia inside the departure lounge, Prime Minister Lilo used the opportunity to introduce his acting, Minister for Communication and Aviation, Walter Folotalu.

PM Lilo said he had all the trust on Folotalu to lead the group while they were away.

"I encourage you to talk with him along with other ministers who are staying," he said.

However, Opposition Leader Dr. Sikua has described the appointment of the Minister of Communications, Folotalu as Acting Prime Minister as inappropriate.

The Opposition Leader said as far as protocol is concerned, the Deputy Prime Minister should automatically be Acting Prime Minister in the absence of the Prime Minister.

Hon. Dr. Sikua said due to the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister is also away overseas, the Foreign Minister should be acting in the position of Prime Minister and not the Minister for Communications.

But Deputy Private Secretary of the Governor General Rawcliffe Ziza said under the constitution the Prime Minister has the power to appoint any ministers in the absence of him and Deputy Prime Minister.

Under section 38 of the constitution:

Whenever the Prime Minister is unable, by reason of illness or absence from Solomon Islands, to perform the functions conferred on him by this Constitution, those functions shall be performed by the Deputy Prime Minister or, if he too is unable to do so, the Governor-General may, by directions in writing, authorize some other Minister to perform those functions (other than the functions conferred by this section) and that Minister may perform those functions until his authority is revoked by the Governor-General.

The powers of the Governor-General under this section shall be exercised by him in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

Sources said most members in the coalition did not want to cross to the Opposition because of dislike towards its leadership.

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