Solomon anti corruption group denied permission to hold rally | Pacific Beat

Solomon anti corruption group denied permission to hold rally

Solomon anti corruption group denied permission to hold rally

Updated 21 October 2013, 12:36 AEDT

Police in Solomon Islands' have refused permission to allow the country's joint civil society group to hold a rally today in support of a petition they have started, calling on Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo to step down.

This refusal happen just days after the head of the Solomon Islands Anti-Corruption network Barnabas Henson, told Radio Australia he had been forced to resign from his job at a private company due to political pressure, claiming the company was told by Mr Lilo that tax exemptions they'd asked for would be refused unless it got rid of him.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Barnabas Henson, Solomons' anti corruption campaigner

HENSON: From an email that was from the Office of the Commissioner of Police, and it was said in the letter that the rally today was refused permission, partly because we were unable to specify the security arrangements for the meeting. There was concern that the venue we have chosen, which is a multi-purpose hall in the centre of town was to close to commercial areas and the time allocated for the forum which is between one o'clock and five o'clock was not conducive and so given those issues, the permission was refused.
HILL: Do you accept those concerns by the police about security and being close to commercial areas?
HENSON: Hmm, yes, hmm, basically because we do have a non-violent strategy and yesterday afternoon there was a protest made by students of the Solomon Islands National University, which was intercepted by police halfway through town and because of the situation that resulted from that protest, we sort of accepted what the police said. But in a press statement that I put out yesterday to the media, I called upon the Police not to frustrate the process, because in doing so they'll be inviting people to - it will exacerbate public anger and negative reaction from people generally who would like to voice an opinion through the forum.
HILL: Although ideally, having demonstrations and protests should be completely fair. In the situation in Solomon Islands, you can kind of see where the police are coming from. Solomon Islands is still recovering from a period of ethnic tension where things boiled over very quickly. Do you think maybe they're just erring on the side of caution and not wanting something to do ahead, which might inflame passions and perhaps people might get a bit carried away at an event like this?
HENSON: Yes, we were always aware of the negative undercurrents that are out there. But in doing so, we have chosen a venue that is smaller, that is confined and controllable and manageable. At any given time, the maximum number of people you can sit in their multi-purpose hall would be around 400 and we have actually requested each participation of the police in the Forum itself to ensure that the law and order is maintained.
HILL: So you're going ahead with - are you going to try again a second time and try meet the Police's request this time?
HENSON: Yes, we're going to have a meeting tomorrow and consider resubmitting another 14-day's notice - looking at another venue that is a bit out of town and away from where the centre of business activity is and we'll go from there.
HILL: OK. Now, turning to your own situation. As we mentioned, we have spoken with the Prime Minister's office in relation to your dismissal which you've made these claims about - the Prime Minister's spokesman told us that they'd received a letter from your former employer telling them that you'd breached company policy and in essence, that policy referred to staff members being involved in politics and lobbying against the government. What's your response to that version of events?
HENSON: Hmm, firstly regarding the letter itself, the letter they claim to be from the company's CEO. It was written on plain paper, there was no letterhead, no dates, no signatures. It wasn't signed off and anybody could have made the letter up, that was my first reaction.
On the otherhand, I still stick to what I've said earlier - that in the meeting, I sat with the CEO and the GM of the company and what was put to me was an ultimatum whether I was going to resign from the Joint Civil Society or leave the company and that was the message that was relayed by a representative of the Prime Minister's office to the Chief Executive Officer and that was what I was told in the meeting.
I'm aware that they came out and denied it publicly in the media. So there seems to be some collusion between the company itself and the Prime Minister's office.
HILL: Yesterday on Pacific Beat, we spoke to Mr Samson Faisi, the former president of the Teacher's Association. He said a very similar thing happened to him when he was President of the Teacher's Association. He claims that he was fired by the Education Department as a teacher, and then told that because he wasn't a teacher, he couldn't be President of the Teacher's Union. Is this something that's starting to happen - people are getting involved in politics having repercussions in their professional life?
HENSON: Yes, it's starting to become, there's a pattern forming in this regard. Samson Faisi was ordered by the Ministry of Education to step down as President when, after they had terminated him as a teacher. So it's either the government giving a job or they make sure you don't have one. 
Some of the people who were quite vocal in the past were given, are very quiet now, because they were given positions within government ministries and so it's becoming a pattern now to keep people quiet about issues to do with government corruption.
HILL: Just to repeat, we have contacted Mr Henson's former employer directly for a response, and have yet to hear a reply. As well, we have tried to contact the Royal Solomon Islands' Police Force to talk about the refusal of permission for the rally, but without success.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.