MFMR rejects Transparency Solomon Islands International’s allegations
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) has described the allegations by Transparency Solomon Islands International (TSI) as grossly misleading and lacks credibility.
“As a watch dog organisation, TSI has failed miserably to cross check for facts before publishing such allegations in the media,” Director of Fisheries stated.
TSI claimed MFMR has been inconsiderate in its handling of the issue of beche-de-mer (BDM) which saw increasing number of Asians going to Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) with their local business partners to buy BDM products from resource owners. MFMR wishes to clarify that while the Ministry has the overall control over the management of sea cucumber (BDM) fishery, the Provincial Government and the resources owners have the right to decide on who to do provincial and community trading of their BDM products during the opening season. To be fair in their report, TSI should go down to the people and get their side of the stories, rather than misleading this paper with one person’s sided story.
On the other issues raised by TSI, MFMR wishes to inform the public of the followings;
- On the allegations of unfair treatment, colluded by government officials to target Dr Aipia or deny him from participating in the BDM fishery, is totally false. All the arrest of Dr Aipia were in relation to illegal harvesting of sea cucumber during the closed period. During the last BDM opening season (2018/2019) MFMR awarded Dr Aipia with a Licence to export BDM. TSI as a watch dog should properly do their research before hitting the media with biased, unprofound and misleading information.
- On the current claim for compensation by Dr Aipia as stated in the TSI article, the matter is appealed and is still pending before the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands to determine the substantial issues. As such, MFMR will not make any statement here regarding this matter.
- With regards to the allegation that the Police was trying to arrest Dr Aipia when he was on a fishing trip at Roncador Reef, this is false and misleading information by the watch dog TSI. To put the records straight, the two vessels were spotted on the Roncador Reef by a surveillance plane. At that time, no one knew that the two vessels were hired by Dr Aipia and to say that Police and Fisheries targeted Dr Aipia in this operations is a total liar. As a procedure according to section 65 (4) of the Fisheries Management Act 2015, a police officer acting within the limits of his or her authority is deemed to be an authorised officer under the Act and section 65 (2) of the Act provides for authorised officers of MFMR appointed as authorised officer to carry out monitoring and surveillance operations, and any vessel suspected must be boarded at sea for inspection, this is normal fisheries surveillance and monitoring operations. Upon boarding, the boarding Party knew, that it was Dr Aipia that hired these vessels for fishing.
- And for the TSI to say that Dr Aipia wasted his fishing license as the trip have to be cut short because the crews were traumatised was totally misleading. Dr Aipia was actually fishing without a License, and this is illegal according to the Fisheries Management Act 2015. Afterwards, MFMR tried to assist Dr Aipia to get a license before he can venture into his business, by providing advice to improve his facilities on board to meet the sanitation requirements before he can be issued a License. However, for some unknown reasons, Dr Aipia never came back to MFMR to persuade this further.
- Another allegation was with the involvement of Government Officials as deemed corrupt. MFMR wishes to clarify that there is a process in place to deal Government Officials with the Ministry of Public Service if suspected of such behaviour.
MFMR appeal to TSI to come to the MFMR and get a balance story on these issues, as these issues emerged when Public Officers trying to implement the Fisheries Laws of this country. The Law is for all the people of this country and for TSI to take side of these issues is also a concern for those Public Officers trying their best to enforce the laws of this country.
The Ministry of Fisheries denied the claim that Dr Aipia was targeted saying this is not true.