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PM Lilo on a cleanup footing

But will he have the time to complete the job?

As his nation prepares for the national general election later this year, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, is a man whose leadership is under siege. And he may not have the time to dust off the rising tempo of criticisms being levelled at his 25-month old leadership. Much of the criticism is about his leadership style, which many say closely resembles that of former prime minister, the late Solomon Mamaloni. Both men share a common leadership trait: giving their ministers a free hand for the sake of keeping their job.

As a result, the public good becomes the victim. In the case of Lilo, self-created issues just keep piling up. In one case, multi-million dollar infrastructure projects to be funded by the Japanese Government were on the verge of being withdrawn before Prime Minister Lilo steps in. The two projects —one intended to address overcrowding at Point Cruz wharf—the nation’s largest seaport in the capital—and the other to build an eight-kilometre road linking the Ranadi Industrial area with Point Cruz. It all began when Lilo’s Infrastructure Minister Seth Gukuna with the support of Finance Minister, Rick Hou, jointly signed an instrument for the mass sacking of the entire board of the Solomon Islands’ Ports Authority (SIPA).

Hou, a former governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, later retracted his support, citing legal reasons. The view from the nation’s Attorney-General’s Chambers is that the board should be reinstated. Gukuna refused. Instead, he reinstated SIPA’s former chief executive officer and general manager, William Barile, who was earlier removed by the board. Gukuna’s problem was that the decision to reinstate Barile had backfired. From September last year, Barile was unable to draw a salary because there was no board to approve the man’s contract. In the meantime, Tokyo was pushing. In the first visible action to stamp his authority on his leadership, Prime Minister Lilo moved in last month to break the five-month impasse. The CEO was given his marching order while the sacked board was reinstated.

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