A FORMER prime minister once said that Solomon Islands almost always follow in the footsteps of its near neighbour, Papua New Guinea in just about everything.
“The moment PNG pulls its feet out, we plant ours in,” he once told his PNG counterpart. Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable.
Something good has begun to unfold in that nation’s capital, Port Moresby. One hopes that we plant our feet firmly in PNG’s footprint in terms of their judicial system.
The PNG National Court has handed out a nine-year jail term to Pomio MP Paul Tiensten, who was found guilty of “dishonestly awarding a payment of K10 million to Travel Air, an airline company owned by Kokopo businessman Eremas Wartoto who is also facing similar charges.”
Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika handed down the sentence before a packed court room at the National Court.
He ruled that four years of the total nine-year sentence would be suspended on the condition that Tiensten “repays the money to the State. Failure will result in him serving the full nine-year sentence.”
Tiensten’s jailing was the result of work undertaken by a criminal investigation taskforce known as Investigation Task Force Sweep. It’s the first big fish it has landed.
It’s a rather hefty sentence but one I am sure has sent the right message to politicians and aspiring ones that our very action could tip the table on us.
I am sure Solomon Islands citizens who want to see clean and honest dealings in our political system are praying that what happened in PNG happens here too. Soon.
The similarity in the PNG case with cases in here, for example, the high school computer fiasco, the $10 million cattle funding, the tsunami funding is just mind blowing.
Tiensten’s case is just one of 77 cases going through the court process in PNG. Of this figure, 34 have passed the committal stage and are lined up for trial this year.
Could this be the one and only chance to plant our feet firmly in a good footprint?