Pelau on Ontong Java, which Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has assured them of sending a boat with health and humanitarian support are still waiting two weeks after the promise.
And patience is running thin as people there who were forced to go into lockdown and the community are now running out of food.
Chief Christian Papasi who is the head of the Pelau Council of Chiefs said they desperately needed food and wanted health authorities to intervene to do swab on his people so that they could return to normal life.
Sogavare attributed the current outbreak of COVID-19 to a PNG doctor who crossed illegally into Luaniua and passed the virus to passengers of M.V Awka, which arrived from OJ on 10th January. But certain people in OJ have since disputed the claim arguing that the doctor arrived in Luaniua but Awka had already left the islands for Honiara.
Now Papasi is urging SIG to act on its promise to his people.
He said because of climate change Pelau people relied mostly on food supply from Honiara and the restriction of ships sailing to the islands has harshly affected them.
Papasi said even the little swamp taro they plant was also affected due to sea intrusion into their gardens due to climate change.
When contacted, Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr. Jimmy Rodgers who is the Vice Chair of the Oversight Committee, in response to SBM’s question on when the ship will leave for OJ, he said: “The NDMO is now working out a schedule to take supplies to provinces. Ontong Java is included. We should have a much better grasp of what ship and when when we next meet in a couple of days.”
Today, we asked the NDMO on the progress of their preparation for the ship to travel to OJ.
George Baragamu, Chief of Operations of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) said the community transmission of COVID-19 has brought about a lot of changes, one of which is the maritime restrictions placed on vessels traveling to and from Honiara.
The NDMO through the NEOC has been tasked by the Oversight Committee and in consultation with other key SIG Agencies, SOEs’ (SIMA and SIPA), and the Provincial Disaster Committees (PDCs’) are finalising the protocols for domestic maritime travel in our Islands.
Baragamu said the arrangement is mainly focusing on transportation of general merchandise and goods (cargoes), fuel and emergency health supplies to the provinces as this is critical in that it support the local provincial economy whilst sustaining the livelihood of people.
In terms of vessels, Baragamu said it will only be Solomon Island Maritime Authority that recommends vessels and will have to undergo strict MHMS assessment as per the protocol.
He states SIG through the NEOC is anticipating the arrangement to be in operational by Wednesday 2nd February 2022.
“As for MOI, the atoll island is included in the arrangement, noting that the last vessel that brought cargoes, goods and fuel to the Island was MV Awka on the 9th of January, which is just over 3 weeks ago.
“It must be emphasis here that as responsible citizens of this country, we all have the moral obligation to ensure we safeguard our communities in the provinces, thus, this arrangement is ensuring that the provision of much needed goods, cargoes, fuel and health supplies are still accessible in the provinces whilst the country is managing the fight on COVID-19 community transmission,” he said.
Life at Pelau
Papasi said his people remain healthy and still restrict their movement as ordered by the government.
He said none of them is sick at the moment or dying from corona.
The chief confirmed that those who were positive have been isolated on an island off Pelau and are still waiting for their second swabs before they are cleared to rejoin the community.