Solomons Cabinet Approves Funds For Disaster Relief

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Opposition questions why funds being channeled through MPs

By Charles Kadamana

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 22, 2015) – Cabinet has passed and agree to channel the disaster rehabilitation funds to the Members of Parliament (MP) for the affected areas instead to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO).

This may force the NDMO the authorizing body to close its operations for providing relief supplies to the affected areas.

NDMO has requested for $3.3 million [US$414,000] for the affected areas in Western, Choiseul, Isabel, Malaita, Central and Makira province affected by recent Cyclone Raquel but the Cabinet during their meeting on Thursday passed and agreed to give the fund through the MPs.

Director of NDMO Loti Yates confirmed they have requested for $3.3 million but if the Cabinet made its decision they will just have to close their operation.

The Opposition Office also revealed the Cabinet decision but they further disclosed that the Cabinet endorsed $5 million [US$626,000] instead of $3.3 million.

Leader of Opposition Jeremy Manale strongly denounced the Cabinet’s decision and describing it as outrageous.

According to 1998 National Disaster Council Act section 11 (1) the Council shall assume full control in time of emergencies while the Cabinet for the purpose of the Act under section 10 shall approve the National Disaster Plan.

The Solomon Star had sought for verification from the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) on this issue since last Thursday but only assured the paper they will get back once they got response from the Cabinet.

[PIR editor’s note: SIBC reported that ‘The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has described the front page news articles in today’s papers as "false and misleading." ... the money will be used to buy rice for people who are affected by the cyclone, adding this will be the first line of support for people whose food gardens were destroyed and cannot wait for the completion of the site assessment being undertaken by the National Disaster Management Office. ... only those far detached from the realities of life in Solomon Islands will question why Cabinet decided to channel this first line of disaster relief assistance through members of parliament. ... The statement adds government disaster relief assistance through NDMO will be given after the completion of assessments in the affected Constituencies.’]

Media consultant Alfred Sasako said, if it is true, it is not a surprising thing because the previous government have done the same thing in the past.

It was understood that in 2004 tsunami that hit Western province the NACRA led government have endorse $150,000 [US$19,000] in relief money to assist the victims out of $15 million [US$1.9 million] disaster funds to MPs.

Similar thing was also done during the April flood last year where relief money was given through to the MPs.

The Member of Parliament for East Honiara, Douglas Ete during that time have blasted the NCRA Government saying it has fail to allocate funds to counter national disaster.

He questioned why relief money had to be given to the MPs rather than the National Disaster Management Office

"Why does the money have to go into the hands of the MPs and not to the NDMO, which is the rightful authority to deal with disasters?" he quoted.

This latest decision if it is true, contradicts what he has said, on the same issue.

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