PRIME MINISTER MANASSEH SOGAVARE
-19. 06. 2020-
Fellow Solomon Islanders, good afternoon and ‘halo long ufala everiwan’.
It is my solemn duty as your Prime Minister, to continue to update you on what your Government is doing during this global pandemic. These are indeed challenging times.
With the greatest of humility, I must register my sincere gratitude to all Solomon Islanders for your unwavering support in our collective fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Good people of Solomon Islands let us all work together in moving our country forward. This is not the time for petty politics.
We are COVID-19 free because of your patience, understanding and prayers. Let us all continue to pray together for our people and country.
We must remain united until this battle is over.
NEW QURANTINE ARRANGEMENT
Fellow Solomon Islanders, as I have already stated in my previous address last Thursday, Cabinet has recently agreed on the recommendations by the Oversight Committee on (i) refining the quarantine arrangements for incoming travellers to Solomon Islands, and (ii) entry of essential staff employed by the intergovernmental and multilateral organisations and family members of staff employed by these agencies.
Therefore, Cabinet has agreed to the revised quarantine arrangements proposed by the Oversight Committee which will effectively provide a mandatory in-country quarantine period of 14 days and 21 days in country, including testing as well.
Cabinet has approved the retrospective application of this new quarantine regime to the all persons currently staying at the institutional quarantine stations. This is being captured in the Emergency Powers (COVID-19 (No.2) (Amendment No.2) Regulations 2020 made by His Excellency, the Governor General and published in the Gazette on Monday 15th 2020.
Cabinet has noted the latest global trend of COVID-19 and risk status of countries where we anticipate persons will be coming from within the next few months.
Cabinet has also agreed to allow Solomon Islands based intergovernmental and multilateral organisations to bring in their essential Technical Advisor’s and family members of staff employed in these organisations as justified on a case-by-case basis.
That said, on Tuesday this week, the first 24 quarantined persons have been released. Those released are Solomon Island nationals who were repatriated from Vanuatu in May. They have met all requirements placed upon all incoming persons and have served the required quarantine period.
As of 12 noon today, all persons that came through Australia, Vanuatu and Fiji have been discharged. All of them have undergone COVID-19 tests and all their results were negative.
The Government has also opened a quarantine center in Gizo recently. The quarantine center in Gizo currently have two people. The Government is also seriously looking into the possibility to open another center at the western border.
Fellow citizens, on the issue of repatriation flights, the Government has approved two more repatriation flights scheduled for late June and early of July.
The first flight will be from Brisbane to Honiara and the second flight will be from Honiara to Port Vila through to Nadi and return to Honiara.
The Government is planning at least two more repatriation flights that will be announced soon.
Thus, I am appealing to our citizens in those respective countries to contact our respective head of missions and rightful authorities for further information.
All returning passengers regardless of your status or nationality will undergo strict quarantine upon arrival.
Good citizens, daily health monitoring of three other persons from the recent PNG flight and five fisheries observers is also ongoing and COVID-19 testing to be undertaken in the coming weeks.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is also currently conducting preparations for the next set of repatriation flights scheduled for end of June and early July. As such, MHMS is taking all necessary steps to manage arrivals from these flights.
The MHMS have continued to assist various institutions, sporting bodies and businesses with their guidelines /check lists to ensure that their operations have mitigating factors to reduce risk of the spread of COVID-19.
This week Health teams in Western Province including Choiseul Environmental Health Department staff have supported a joint border operation to the Shortland Islands.
This is to build capacity around clinical care, basic first aid training for nurses and police, emergency obstetrics training for Shortland nurses, Community Based Rehabilitation client visitation and border patrol support.
Infection, Prevention, Control and health standard operating procedure trainings, at the provinces are also ongoing with only three more provinces to complete.
That said, all health clinics in Shortland Islands are now able to access radio communication network that will ensure effective and efficient sharing of information and referrals including mobilizing resources related to COVID-19.
JAPAN’s ECONOMIC SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
Fellow Solomon Islanders, on Wednesday this week we have witnessed the exchange of notes between our Foreign Minister and Japan’s Charge D’Affaires here in Honiara.
That important event confirms Japan’s Health focused “Economic and Social Development Project” with the Solomon Islands Government.
The 300 million Japanese Yen or approximately SBD$23 million emergency assistance will be used to purchase essential medical supplies to support our nationwide efforts to prevent COVID-19 from entering our country.
This project will surely contribute towards our efforts to combat COVID -19 and have a stronger and better-equipped health service throughout the country.
As part of this arrangement, x-rays, blood fridge, dental equipment’s, ambulances and other lifesaving equipment’s will be distributed to all our provinces.
My good people, such assistance from our development partners during this time, demonstrate true friendship and partnership.
Therefore, I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Japan, on behalf of the Government and people of Solomon Islands.
I also take this opportunity to thank other development partners for their ongoing support in our collective fight against COVID-19.
You are all true friends of Solomon Islands.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL TRADE
Fellow citizens, I am pleased to say that Solomon Islands have been elected to United Nations Economic and Social Council for a three-year term beginning 2021 and ending 2023.
Out of the 192 members states that were present and voting we polled 187 votes. Our membership to the United Nations Economic and Social Council is very important especially during this COVID19 global pandemic, and the present issue of climate change.
Our inclusion in the Council ensure that we get to share our views on these issues from the perspective of a small islands state.
The Government has also given $100,000 each to Varivao Holdings Limited and Goshen Enterprise through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade.
These two recipients were selected out of 13 candidates that applied. It is hoped that these two companies will use this money to export their products to overseas markets.
This Government will continue to support our people in the rural area to venture and thrive in revenue generating activities.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, we can no longer be mere bystanders in the development of this country.
This Government is committed to ensure that people in the rural areas are active participants in our economy.
This kind of initiative is aimed at achieving this. It is indeed heartening to see our very own local farmers toiling the soil and exporting their products overseas as a result of their hard work.
Fellow citizens, the Government has launched the first commercial farm at Sape, East Guadalcanal today. It includes 40 hectares of cassava and 20 hectares of other crops.
This is part of the ‘COVID-19 Food Bank Initiative’ and the long-term plan is to roll this initiative out to other provinces.
Plans are in place to increase the production of cassava, and the approach is through the national cassava out grower scheme introduced to our educational institutions (boarding schools) and Rural Training Centers (RTCs).
Initially, this will be done in Honiara and Guadalcanal with the intention to roll this out to all Rural Training Centers and communities in all constituencies around the country.
Initial forecast is that up to 65% production will be for domestic food security, and up to 35% to be exported to international markets. These plans are now currently implemented.
The update on the stimulus package have been progressing well. The cocoa and copra exporters have early this week signed the Memorandum of Understanding that will see them administer the subsidy scheme.
The whole policy rationale of this undertaking is to inject cash into our rural economy; this should increase our export, which will lead to higher revenue for the farmers, exporters and the country as well.
Since Monday this week, when the subsidy scheme was implemented, the total volume of copra that comes from the local producers was 136.4 metric tons.
In terms of value, this amount to approximately $SBD409, 180, this is money that goes directly to the hands of the local farmers and exporters.
The Economic Stimulus Package Implementation Committee is also reviewing information on transportation issues facing our farmers.
A way forward will be discussed with relevant partners to ensure that products from farmers are quickly brought to our key buying points for timely export. This Government initiative is expected to directly benefit farmers.
On the implementation of the stimulus package, the Economic Stimulus Package Implementation Committee has now completed the data of all the applicants and the screening process will begin today and onwards, except for provincial applicants.
For provincial based famers and businesses, the due dates was set for 26th of June and further extension of due dates should be advised accordingly when required.
The roll out of the stimulus package in the next few weeks undoubtedly is expected to boost production and growth in the economy.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
My good people, our country is a democratic country that is governed by the principles of democracy.
Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights that is provided for under our Constitution. Like all other freedoms and rights provided for in our Constitution they are not absolute except for the non-derogable rights.
The restriction on freedom of expression in the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (NO.2) Regulation 2020 which was published in the Gazette on 6th May 2020 are under Regulations 23, 25 and 26.
These Regulations were made by His Excellency, the Governor General in the exercise of powers conferred by section 2 of the Emergency Powers Act (Cap. 11).
Regulation 23 prohibits a person from spreading rumors and false information during the state of public emergency that is likely to create or foster public alarm, anxiety or disaffection or to produce public detriment.
In short, this Regulation stops people from spreading lies that may cause social disharmony or public alarm and anxiety under the pretext of freedom of expression.
The people of this nation deserves to be told the truth. During a state of public emergency when everyone is in an agitated state we must exercise great responsibility in what we say.
Fellow citizens, Regulation 14 of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (NO.2) Regulation 2020 gives me the power to suspend access to media outlets under certain circumstances as outlined in that particular Regulation by way of an Order.
To date despite numerous cases I have not made any Order to that effect. However, the Media has been quite unacceptable in discharging its duty to the people of this nation. I call on the media to be more responsible and to exercise the required ethics and standards that is expected of them.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, you may have watched it on TV and on other media platforms around the world, that COVID-19 still remains an imminent threat to humanity.
A fortnight ago, the World Health Organization have warned us of the second wave of infections.
As I speak, the resurgence of the infections has in fact made drastic impacts around the world.
The World Health Organization has described the resurgence of the virus in Asia, Europe and South America as the most complex of all of the situations they have faced globally.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, these are warnings we must not take lightly. We must always take heed of these warnings. Therefore, the current measures undertaken by the Government is to protect our people and country.
Good citizens, whilst the pandemic still poses a great health risk to our people, it is also a challenge like no other, but I strongly believe that with every challenge comes new opportunities. This pandemic has taught us many lessons.
In closing, my good people, it is my prayer that all of us will continue to have the strength and courage in doing our duty to serve and protect our people and our beloved country.
I want to thank the front-liners for their commitment and sacrifice. I understand that most of you have worked late into the early hours this morning to ensure that those who were repatriated are re-united with their family and loved ones. My respect and gratitude to you all.
I would also like to thank those who have been quarantined for their patience and understanding over the past weeks. I know that at times it must be frustrating but that is a small sacrifice we have to make for the collective good of our people and country. Thank you once again for your patience and understanding.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, it is my deepest conviction that we as a people and country shall come out of this global pandemic more united, resilient and stronger than ever.
United we stand, divided we fall.
We are one people, We are one nation, We are Solomon Islands.
To God be the Glory great things He has done.
“U ME TUGEDA AGAINST COVID-19”
May God Bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.