Security at the Point Cruz wharf – the nation’s main international seaport – has been compromised to the extent that it is vulnerable to terrorist infiltration, a former chief security of the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) has warned.
Patterson Ashley Hangaio, who spent 30 years with SIPA, was retired last month on the grounds of having reached the retirement age of 55 years. He was Chief Security Officer.
Mr Hangaio who had attended a number of security training programs run by the United States Department of Homeland Security both in the United States and in Solomon Islands said security at the Point Cruz Wharf had been compromised since a Singaporean firm was contracted to, among other things, review security arrangements there.
Among the training programs he attended was one run by the International Training Division of the US Coast Guard. The course covered such areas as ports physical security and ports vulnerability assessment.
“As someone who has been through such specialised training, I can see that our security has been compromised. It is my view that our sovereignty has been compromised to the extent that Point Cruz wharf is vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.
“Some terrorist activities could be going on there now without our knowledge,” Mr. Hangaio said.
He also questioned a number of Board decisions which he said had “drained” SIPA financially.
“Let me give you an example. In June 2000 when the country was going through the ethnic tension, there were only two international shipping agents in Honiara. Despite that, SIPA was financially healthy.
“Today, we have four shipping agents, handling well over 20 arrivals a month. And yet, SIPA does not seem to be looking healthy financially,” Mr Hangaio said.
“Where’s all the money going?”.
Mr Hangaio pointed to one instance where he said a Board member allegedly awarded his company a refit contract to convert SIPA’s training/conference room into a set of offices.
“It cost SIPA more than SBD700, 000. As far as I know, that did not go through the Board nor the Ports structural engineer. It is the same with a SBD6 million tugboat, which was purchased from the Philippines.
“That boat is today sitting at Noro after just one week of work last December,” he said.
“I think the Board should be terminated immediately, their activities investigated and a new Board appointed. I would also urge the Government to terminate the contract of the Singaporean firm for security reason. We simply cannot entrust our security to anyone outside.
“Our security at the Point Cruz wharf is based on arrangements with the United States. That’s one of the reasons why they have been training us,” he said.
A SIPA official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mr Hangaio was not the only individual who attended the US-run training program on security.
“There are others who have gone through the same training. He is bitter because in his mind he was forced to retire,” the official said.
Mr Hangaio said it was true that he was not happy about the way he was terminated.
“Instead of giving me six-month’s notice in line with SIPA’s employment guidelines, I was given merely two weeks. And that was after 30 years in the security service of SIPA,” he said.
By Alfred Sasako