Official Clarifies Malaita Airport Closure In Solomon Islands

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Aviation secretary: closure due to disagreeing local groups

By Stephen Diisango

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 18, 2013) – Closure of the Gwaunaru’u airstrip in Malaita, Solomon Islands, was not the making of landowners, according to the permanent secretary responsible for Aviation Francis Lomo.

Mr Francis Lomo said the closure was a result of a disagreement from church groups, youth groups and community groups.

"A MOU was signed last year to reopen the airport. The two disputing tribes, Rofatoloabu and Birikwao Fulisisila, agreed to leave it to the High Court to proceed with their case while the airport reopens," Mr Lomo said.

He said according to the agreement, each of the two disputing parties were given three months each to do maintenance work of the airport.

He said because that period lapsed and the high court is yet to come up with a decision, Provincial Member for ward 3 Martin Fini was authorised to coordinate church, youths and community groups to do maintenance.

"He was not given the contractual work but just to coordinate the community groups to do the clean-up of the airport," the permanent secretary said.

He said the groups are not happy with how he handles everything which resulted in the closure.

Meanwhile, Mr Lomo said landowners have already issued a letter to the Auki police commander about the issue.

Attempt to get comments from the police commander yesterday were unsuccessful as he was away to attend a funeral service.

A Solomon Airline agent at the Auki office said flights are still suspended until further notice.

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