OPPOSITION Leader Hon Matthew Wale says the lack of any strategic plan by the Oversight Committee and the government to curb the current community transmission has spoken for itself.
Hon Wale highlighted in response to the statement by the OPMC responding to his call for the Prime Minister to remove the oversight committee and request Australia and New Zealand for an Epidemiologist to be appointed as our national Chief Medical Officer to be in charge of our COVID response.
“My recommendation was forward looking and were based on the facts on the ground. There must be accountability for the current chaotic response that is resulting in tragic consequences. So if the oversight committee is not responsible? Then who is? Even if there was a response plan, the facts on the ground clearly demonstrate such a plan is inadequate. If there is no such plan, there is gross negligence on the part of the government and the oversight committee,” he said.
Hon Wale said the response by the OPMC is seeking to absolve the oversight committee, the Prime Minister and government from accountability for these issues.
“We are in a current situation where there is no strategic plan or any National COVID Strategy developed in the last two years. And the government seemingly do not know what to do,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said the statement by the OPMC is saying there is no need for change because there is nothing that could have been done differently.
Hon Wale said that admission in itself is evidence of the need for change in approach and governance of this pandemic.
He said there is no argument that we have enjoyed two years of COVID free status.
“Well, let us give a big pat on the back for the oversight committee for that. So what should we give them now that it is obvious the response is chaotic and inadequate? Obviously, there is need for change in approach; the facts on the ground bear this out. There is no need to be defensive about it,” Hon Wale said.
He said the fact that we had two years to prepare for a community outbreak and did nothing is waste of time.
Hon Wale said the government should not praise and boast about the 2 years of COVID free status when they know very well that they were never prepared.
He said they had been deceiving this country about our preparedness for COVID community transmission all along.
The Opposition Leader outlined issues, which included;
• The current state of NRH. The Prime Minister and Health Minister said we are well prepared. What is the current status now? NRH is on a brink of collapse and concerns that it will soon become a COVID hospital. NRH was never adequately resourced to deal with the current crisis. Who is responsible for this? No one?
• The continuous lies by the oversight committee and the Prime Minster on the origins of the virus. Just recently, the Prime Minister admitted that the PNG doctor was not the index case. So did the Prime Minister lied to his people or the oversight committee lied to the Prime Minister? It is an international embarrassment. And we still do not know the origin of the virus, which is still being kept secret.
• The absence of any COVID National Response Plan to date from the Prime Minister and his Government. On 23rd January 2022, the oversight committee in a radio talkback show said they were working on a national COVID plan for Cabinet discussions on Tuesday 25th Jan 2022. Just recently, on Sunday 6th February, the Prime Minister confessed Cabinet is still yet to deliberate on any National Response Plan? Who is misleading whom? Is this the plan that should have already been in place a year ago? Why the lack of urgency?
• The lack of any clear strategy by the oversight committee, Prime Minister and his government for mass testing to know the full extent of COVID infections to inform response strategy.
• The lack of political will and foresight in the last 2 years to improve testing capability at the Kilu’ufi hospital. It was left idle for two years until just recently.
• Western province is struggling in its response to community transmission without appropriate and adequate resources. Their calls for support have so far been neglected. Malaita is complaining about the same. Does this look like something planned for? Who is responsible for this neglect? Government cannot excuse its neglect that there are no resources, as the Pacific Games is not short of resources.
• In Honiara alone, 90 bottles of oxygen are consumed daily. We have 300 bottles of oxygen in stock to last a few more days. We are at the mercy of overseas supply for oxygen. An oxygen plant that was offered by WHO 7 months ago was not taken up. Who is responsible for this negligence? Now we are to expect more panic reactions on this matter. Is this part of the preparedness plan?
• Two years of COVID free status and the Government could only afford to build 56 beds and turn a sport facility into a makeshift hospital. Why was technical advice from health experts and continuous suggestions by the Opposition to build a proper COVID hospital never taken on-board? The government knew very well any community transmission would need more than 56 beds.
• The OPMC defended itself that they are working within current resources. Why is there more than $100m tied up in Pacific Games, when the health sector desperately needs those resources? Who is responsible for making the decision that the Pacific Games is more important than health safety of this country?
• The lack of foresight by the oversight committee and the Prime Minister to locate an alternative burial site. It is a shame the national government has already announced Barana as the alternative site without any due respect and no consultations with the Guadalcanal province, chiefs and people. As in everything else in government’s response, this is part of the panic reactions.
“So who is responsible for the lack of preparations and the chaotic response? Is it the Opposition? It is unfortunate even the OPMC does not understand the constitutional mandate of the Opposition Office to point out gaps and make recommendations to assist government responses during this time. That is our role. Do you want us to abandon that role? Without the Opposition, we would continue to listen to misleading statements made in the talkback shows and national addresses,” Hon Wale said.