TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) reiterate its call to stop any move or plan to facilitate direct flight from China to Honiara as at this time the Covid-19 deaths is approaching millions across the globe.
Despite earlier call for the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) to stop the idea of bringing in Chinese officials via direct flight from China to Honiara, it is disappointing to learn that the call seems to fall on deaf ears.
The flight was announced for 29th of August this month by Permanent Secretary (PS) for Foreign Affairs Mr. Collin Beck in a radio talk back show, has triggered a nation-wide outcry against the decision for a direct flight to and from China.
The flight was confirmed in parliament or during parliament sitting last month and set for the end of this month August. The flight is meant to bring in officials from China including the Chinese Ambassador to Solomon Islands and technical people to work on the earmarked sport facilities for the 2023 South Pacific Games (SPG).
Whilst Transparency Solomon Islands sees the flight going out of Honiara as not being a threat to anyone outside of Solomon Islands given our COVID 19 free status, the issue of concern is the return flight from China to Honiara, Solomon Islands that is bringing passengers from China to Honiara, stopping along the way for refuse etc. in countries that are infected with coronavirus. The chance for bringing the coronavirus to Solomon Islands is just too great. The risks real or perceived has created fear in the hearts and minds of the majority of health and medical disadvantaged citizens of Solomon Islands. For them keeping the COVID 19 free status of Solomon Islands for as long as we can is their only hope. The Executive Government has not done much about the improvement of health and medical services in the SOPE period to get the country ready to deal with any positive case, the containment of its spread and monitoring of any community transmission as well as protection of our front-line workers. Take a visit to our peak hospital the National Referral Hospital to see for yourself.
Some people especially the political appointees of the current Executive Government with very little experience might reason that bringing in people from China via a direct flight to Honiara is not a threat provided that tough quarantine measures are enforced with facilities available for quarantine purposes.
However, the issue of risk should not be taken lightly by the ruling Executive Government for believing that China is safer. Chinese Communist Party is an Authoritarian regime where information is strictly controlled and monitored. For the sake of keeping our country free of the virus and our people’s lives being cautious is a must. There has been denial of human rights abuses where they have denied but evidence overwhelmingly says otherwise.
China is a communist country with so much restrictions on freedom of speech, thus control the flow of information in the mainstream media to impress the public and tell the world that they are now the savior of the world despite the fact that they let this virus out of China. They have kept Wuhan, stopped the medical profession who but in fact are hiding the truth of the matter. The naked truth is China has 88,077 people infected with the virus. They can control it in China because they have the required infrastructures, literate people that allows them to manage unlike Solomon Islands.
If they can suppress their own medical doctor from speaking the truth about the virus and the suspicious murdered of the doctor by the Chinese government speaks well of the likes of our new friend. Most importantly, it is a fact that they are people who are exposed to the virus and have it but show no symptoms, spreading the virus unknowingly. Delays in the country between time of testing and getting results exacerbated the spread of the virus. Even in countries that have state of the art medical and health facilities are unable to manage the spread of the virus. How much more for Solomon Islands when we cannot even meet the medical and health care needs of our sick people. Safest way is to keep the border close and only allow in those who come in to help us with preparation for COVID 19 eventuality for it will come. Let us extend the time this virus stays out so that we can reach all our people preparing them for the day when this comes and when a treatment is found.
It seems that this new diplomatic friend of ours China is hell bent on pleasing us and to show its power and what it can do after the uproar by the citizens of this country against the switch. It seems the health and safety of Solomon Islanders is not a worry to China, and the current leaders of the DCGA government who gave the nod for a direct flight to Henderson airport. Why should they be worried? They will probably be flown directly to China for treatment under the Health and Medical Scheme provided for them and their families by Mustard Seed paid out of our taxes [$1.5million].
Transparency Solomon Islands admire the efforts of the government to get things moving in preparation for the SPG 2023 but would like to point out that there should be a plan B put in place in case of situation like this arise. The disagreement is when all world sports have suspended, postponed work on international sporting events and games because of COVID 19, this Executive Government is threatening our COVID free status for the sake of SPG 2023. Not all the people of Solomon Islands will enjoy this event so why risk their lives for something that mostly urban dwellers will enjoy. Some countries have cancelled hosting of international sporting events due to the corona pandemic but the DCGA government continue to risk the lives of citizens on this SPG 2023 preparation.
A plan B should be ready when there is a disaster strike affecting the country’s economy and the rest of the world.
Any person with the right-thinking mind will agree that the SPG 2023 can be negotiated for a later date given the situation we are facing. Why does the committee responsible for the games’ preparation did not advise the executive government on some possible timeframe options to be considered in this time of the pandemic? Why do the body responsible for the game’s preparation did not communicate with the Pacific Games Council on the situation stemmed from covid-19 to see how things will carry on at this difficult time?
It is incomprehensible on the part of those leading the Government’s National Hosting Authority (NHA) when they fail to consider the covid-19 threat that disturb the efforts to prepare for the biggest pacific sporting event.
Transparency Solomon Islands calls on the responsible bodies to come up with other options that will keep the games preparation on track, without risking the lives of our people to poor decisions, such as the proposed direct flight from China to Honiara.
Above all, the health of our people is paramount and as leaders being entrusted with all the powers from our citizens you have to exercise the responsibility of care and protections for the lives of Solomon Islanders.
Transparency Solomon Islands wants to reiterate on the call to publish all the names and details of all Chinese nationals who will board the flight from China to Honiara, and that of any stranded Solomon Islander included in the flight.
This will show who is travelling to the country on covid-19 related matters as allowed in the regulation under the State of Public Emergency (SoPE). But since all these Chinese intended to be brought over to Honiara are visiting the country for other purposes other than to help out in the work of covid-19 then this is a breach of the Emergency Powers Regulation for the wrong purpose.
Furthermore, it is equally disturbing that Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele has confirmed in Parliament on Wednesday night that the planned direct flight to China and return to Honiara is chartered by the Chinese government.
Hon. Manele said the PRC government is chartering Solomon Airlines to bring their diplomats and contractors to commence work on infrastructures for the Pacific Games in 2023. So what? It is the COVID 19 free status of the country that is important. Stop diverting attention away from the real issues that concern people and country.
Among the confirmed passengers is China’s ambassador to Solomon Islands. Is Chinese Communist Party using Solomon Islands to prove a point to its critics in from other developed countries? If so, this is poor and irresponsible use Solomon Islands as pawn in their world super power struggle.
All the passengers arriving on the flight will have to provide medical clearance of where they come from and when they arrive in Honiara will undergo mandatory quarantine.
Nonetheless, Transparency Solomon Islands cautioned that this is not safe although those Chinese will undergo quarantine here. TSI warned that our neighbor Papua New Guinea (PNG) report its first cases from health workers who are frontlines at quarantine centers now reaching 100 confirm cases with two deaths. How safe is this country from those Chinese to be directly imported to the quarantine center here in Honiara? The planned direct flight to Honiara from China will further deceive the world that China is now safer for keeping the covid-19 under control.
Can the Oversight Committee make public the list of persons who are not Solomon Islanders brought in from our neighboring countries and make public why they are allowed in. Under the Emergency Powers Regulation it is clear who may be exempted and these are foreigners who came on covid-19 related matters, so any person coming for other purposes like the engineers for the SPG 2023 or the Chinese ambassador returning to his Honiara office is a breach of the SoPE regulation. It would be a test of whether or not the Executive Government is applying the Emergency Powers Regulation across the board or selectively.
Finally, TSI appeal to the DCGA government to exercise the power under this SoPE with transparency, accountability, and integrity. Emphasizing more on the health of citizens should be the center of every decisions made by leaders, at this time the world is going on lock down of international borders. For the sake of protecting the people from the killer virus Solomon Islands leaders including the executive government, opposition and independent group within the parliament, covid-19 oversight committee, provincial governments, churches and communities, civil society groups and donors to work together in keeping the international borders close from incoming foreign nationals. This is not a time to be playing around with people’s lives recklessly.
ISSUED BY TSI