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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

SI PM's Special Secretary admitted being stranded in Australia

Special Secretary to the Prime Minister Sam Alasia yesterday admitted he got stranded in Brisbane recently and could not accompany the prime minister all the way to France.

Mr Alasia left the country with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on 22 June 2006 for the France-Pacific leaders summit. But after he checked in at Brisbane Airport for the connection flight to France on 24 June, he was surprisingly told the plane was fully booked and therefore could not board the flight.

“Really, it was a ticketing problem with Solomon Airlines.“And because I could not make it, the prime minister had asked me to follow up on several government matters while waiting in Brisbane,” Mr Alasia told the Solomon Star yesterday.

Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Rence Sore, and Gov't backbencher West Kwaio MP Peter Tom, accompanied Mr Sogavare all the way to France.

Opposition spokesman Edward Huniehu said Mr Alasia should have return immediately when he could not continue on to France.“To spend a week in Brisbane is a total waste of public money.“Mr Alasia left the country to go to France. In an event where he got stranded on the way, the right thing to do is to return home.“To say he has to attend to government business in Brisbane is not acceptable. This was not the purpose for him going overseas,” Mr Huniehu said.

However, Mr Alasia said when he was told the flight was full, Prime Minister Sogavare asked him to follow up on certain outstanding matters with the University of Queensland. “The first thing I was asked to follow up on was a Memorandum of Understanding between Solomon Islands Government and the University of Queensland.
“The MOU was signed in 2003 by the last government. I followed up on it. “Another matter that I followed up on was with the Peace and Conflict Studies at the same university. “I basically enquire into how South Africa set up its Truth and Reconciliation Commission.“I have done my reports on both matters are now ready to be submitted to the prime minister,” Mr Alasia said.

He said although he was disappointed the trip ended up like that, he was pleased to have fulfilled the assignments he was given to undertake.“I believe the matters that I’ve attended to while in Brisbane could have cost the Government a fortune if it sends another delegation to follow up on,” Mr Alasia said.

He spent a week in Brisbane and returned together with Prime Minister Sogavare on July 1.

Mr Alasia also explained that he was picked to go with the Prime Minister’s delegation because the Secretary to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr John Roughan, was not available.He said Dr Roughan also left the same week to overseas but he was on a private trip to London for a NGO meeting.

Prior to their departure, the public was told both Mr Alasia and Dr Roughan would accompany the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Huniehu has questioned why the Prime Minister’s Office had kept Mr Alasia’s predicament under wraps for far too long.“In the interest of transparency, the Prime Minister’s Office should have explain this to the public immediately after the return of the delegation.“When they leave it for someone else to find out, it does not speak well of a government that professes transparency as a cornerstone to its leadership,” Mr Huniehu said.

He also expressed surprise at why Dr Roughan undertook a private trip when the nation was told he was accompanying the prime minister.

source: Solomon Star


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