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Whistleblower Slams Behind Scenes Waste Dump Moves

USP Pacific Journalism Online:
Wansolwara Online (USP):

By EVAN WASUKA: May 29, 2002 Wansolwara Online (USP)

SUVA: The man who blew the whistle on plans to dump hazardous Taiwanese industrial waste in the Solomon Islands has condemned the behind the scenes manipulation by members of government to get the waste dumping trade underway.

Dr Morgan Wairiu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, described how despite scientific evidence of the hazardous nature of the waste, members of government, including his own minister are lobbying hard to get license approval of the project.

A soil scientist by training, he revealed to University of the South Pacific students from the Solomon Islands this week that a licence to import humus soil had been previously issued in January to local company Haura Development Holdings, but was then revoked by the Director of Quarantine, Cameron Eta.

Early this month Stephen Paeni, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock issued a directive to the Quarantine Divison to reissue the licence.

The move has recieved local and regional oppositon.

"Taiwan should be dealing with the waste closer to home, Solomon Islands does not have the capacity to store hazardous waste" says Greenpeace campaigner, Maureen Penjueli.

In a heated letter to his own minister dated May 6, Dr Wairu said that the licensing issue is a "trap that you will sink the government in and it will not be able to get out of it. Solomon Islands will be nothing more than a toxic waste dump."

The Solomon Islands government stands to gain a goodwill payment of US$136 million if current re-licensing moves are successful.

The issue has divided government. Seven members of cabinet have threatened to withdraw their support from government if the prime minister does not support their moves to get the license passed.

A cabinet meeting on May 2 endorsed moves to force the permanent secretary of agriculture and the director of quarantine Cameron Eta to reissue the licence.

The Quarantine Department refused to carry out the directives on the grounds that Solomon Islands is a signatory to the Waigani Convention and that the country doesn’t have the means to monitor and regulate the waste the hazardous material.

Using provisions from the Environment Act 1998, with the backing of the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock the issue was transferred over to the Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Conservation.

While this was going on, Dr Wairiu and his supporters made moves to officially gazette the Environment Act. With the Environment Act in place, its provisions state that the director of Quarantine Divison has the final say on the issue, which means at this time the license is still unapproved.

Dr Wairiu says the prime minister now has two choices, take a stand to stop the importation of industrial waste and face the collapse of his coalition government or he can terminate those in the public office who are preventing the license approval, namely himself and the director of quarantine.


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