Solomons MPs’ Efforts To Buy Passenger Boats Criticized

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Solomons MPs’ Efforts To Buy Passenger Boats Criticized Small Malaita, Renbel to see one new vessel each in 2014

By Alfred Sasako

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 9, 2013) – Small Malaita constituents are set to receive their second passenger boat – thanks to their Member of Parliament (MP) and Minister for Finance and Treasury, Rick Hou, who has secured SBD$3 million [US$412,800] in Government funding to buy the new ship next year.

The purchase is certain to secure Hou’s berth at the 2014 national general election, which is due next November.

Small Malaita constituency’s first boat is called Small Mala. Its ownership has become embroiled in a leaked controversial Leadership Code Commission (LCC) investigation report, which was published by the media last week.

Voters there will join the people of Renbel Province, whose MP and Minister for Infrastructure Development (MID), Seth Gukuna, has also secured about SBD$2.7 million [US$371,520] to buy the province’s second passenger/freight boat.

Like Small Malaita, Renbel constituency already owns a passenger freighter, which has also been embroiled in a tit-for-tat between Minister Gukuna and the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) board which he removed in controversial circumstances.

But the two Ministers’ "luck" in putting themselves ahead of other constituencies in getting funding for their second boat has incurred the ire of other Cabinet ministers whose constituencies have been unsuccessful in securing funding for their voters, sources said.

Two other constituencies who requested funding to buy passenger boats for their constituencies are East Makira (Alfred Ghiro) and South Vella La Vella (Alex Lional).

"I can tell you people are not happy. They are asking, what makes the two ministers different from other Cabinet ministers whose constituencies don’t even own a boat?" one source said.

"East Makira and South Vella La Vella constituencies are okay because this will be their first boat, but Renbel and Small Malaita Constituencies, there’s really no justification to get a second," the source said.

The sources said funding to buy the boats is being drawn from the National Transport Fund controlled by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development.

Attempts to get comments by the paper last night were unsuccessful.

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