Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Unpaid Festival Workers Express Grievances In Solomons
Threatened to burn down culture and tourism ministry office

By Douglas Marau

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 19, 2012) – Hundreds of disgruntled contractors from the recent Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA) held in the Solomon Islands threatened to destroy and burn down office of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism yesterday.

The angry workers were the contractors, shell money makers, securities, landscapers and those in charge of the catering services during the FOPA in July.

At about 1pm yesterday, the angry workers threatened to take matters into their own hands and destroy the office following claims the government had failed to pay their outstanding variations after the Arts Festival.

However, swift action by the Police Response Team (PRT) quickly dispersed the crowd away from the Commonwealth Street.

Police blocked off the road leading down to the main wharf with heavy presence of the PRT present until late yesterday evening.

Speaking to some of the angry workers they claimed it had been seven months and the government had been lying to them all along.

"We want to know the truth whether the government will be paying us or not because they have been pushing us around and lying to us all along," they said.

It is understood Police Commissioner John Langsley, who was also at the scene, had to calm the crowd down with the help of his officers.

Mr. Langsley also accompanied some of the workers yesterday to the Parliament House where Parliament had to be interrupted for a few minutes to call for a special meeting to address the workers demand.

The Solomon Star understands the workers have been assured by government leaders at parliament that their claims would be dealt with.

It is also understood foreign affairs officer Senda Fifi’i and defunct FOPA director Robert Au have been summoned to appear before Parliament today to answer to some of the workers' claims.

One of the workers' spokesmen John Buluwale after returning from Parliament yesterday told the workers that the government would be addressing their claims.

However, the workers angrily responded that the government should not delay the process because they are responsible for all the problems.

"The government must address this issue or else we will continue to protest in front of their office," the workers said.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner John Langsley urged members of the public not to take matters into their own hands and to refrain and consider peaceful means that will settle their claims.

Mr. Langsley said the rule of law cannot be compromised by people seeking to threaten or intimidate through activities which could cause harm or distress to people.

He said their prime interest is to see that our town and people will not be threatened or harmed.

"Police will not tolerate anyone with self interest to cause fear amongst the public, particularly with this type of behavior," he said.

Commissioner Langsley also called on those who are affected to be patient and allow rightful authorities to discuss and find ways to solve their claims rather than approach it in such a destructive way.

Solomon Star
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