Media urged to play effective watchdog role as parliamentary corruption exposed
Parliament was dissolved in December 2018 and Solomon Islands will go to the polls on 3rd April 2019. In November 2018, ten corruption cases involving members of parliament were investigated by the police and arrests followed shortly. MP Dickson Mua was arrested and charged for misusing a shipping grant, while MP and forestry minister Samuel Manetoali was arrested and charged with allegedly misusing USD 12,480 that was meant for developments in his constituency, on a private Christmas party instead.
Journalists urged to write more investigative stories
On 27th November 2018 it was reported that local journalists attending a week-long training on Anti-Corruption Reporting, Promotion of Integrity, Transparency and Accountability in the capital, Honiara, were being urged to write more investigative stories. .
Vice President of the Media Association Solomon Islands (MASI) and Press Secretary to Prime Minister Douglas Marau reminded journalists of their ‘watchdog’ role. He said:
“Our society today is demanding more investigative stories than ever and yes, as journalist and reporters we have an obligation to provide the truth about people from authority and other entity and cooperation who attempt to keep their often illegal activities secret and to expose them so that they can be held accountable”.
While Marau highlighted the critical role of media in curbing corruption. He also stressed that in order for the media to be strengthened to perform its role effectively, 'journalists must also seriously consider providing necessary protection to journalists who may be under threat or face risks that might endanger their lives in their line of duty'. Towards this end, MASI has begun work with the government and other stakeholders, to introduce a Media Protection Bill to supplement the Anti-Corruption and Whistle Blowers Protection laws and also work towards raising the standard of integrity in the media industry.
Transport workers strike over taxes increase
On 7th November 2018, public buses and taxis drivers in Honiara went on strike. The decision to strike by the Honiara Public Transport Association was due to the recent drastic hike in taxes for public transport imposed by the Ministry of Finance’s Revenue Division.
Taxis have been hit with a SD 7000 (USD 898) tax increase while buses are facing a tax of SD 10,000 (USD 1,284) per year. The Honiara Public Transport Association’s Interim Chair Henry Wale said, the increase caused widespread anger and frustration among the transport owners. Two hundred transport owners met on 7th November 2018 and urged the government to immediately remove the tax increase. If they refused to the drivers would increase the fares on taxis and the buses.
Services were resumed the following day after the Inland Revenue Division agreed to reduce the taxes to SD 3,900 (USD 500) per year for buses and SD1,500 (USD 192) per year for taxis.