Reserved seats, plastic ban among Western Province’s 2018 priorities

Western Provincial Premier Wayne Maepio

As 2017 draws to a close, the Western Provincial Government is looking ahead to the new year with determination to complete several major projects.

Among the policies the government wants to advance in 2018 is a temporary special measure for women to have three reserved seats in the provincial assembly.

The provincial election is expected to be held next year.

The government approved the TSM policy for the reserved seats in August. Since then, it has made some specific arrangements for the three seats, including dividing the 26 wards of Western Province into three zones.

The Women’s Rights Action Movement and the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs recently facilitated a training session in Gizo that taught women how to inform other women throughout the province about the TSM policy.

Western Provincial Premier Wayne Maepio said it is important for the people of Western Province to understand the TSM concept before it is implemented.

“I am happy to see that the committee and technical team are really aggressively taking note of that and are doing it,” Mr Maepio said. “We expect them to consult with people and come back with reports about the difficulties and challenges of making up the policy’s approach in terms of ordinance.”

Mr Maepio said his government is committed to the TSM policy. If it is implemented, Western Province will become the first province in Solomon Islands to adopt such a measure.

The province could also set a precedent if it takes action to enforce a much-talked-about plastic ban.

Mr Maepio’s government announced in June that all plastics will be banned from Western Province, saying plastic bag pollution is an epidemic in the province that damages both the marine environment and people’s health.

The government expected the policy to take effect this year, but Mr Maepio said progress has been slow.

“I would like to inform the public that we will restart it back in the new year,” he said. “We will have a clearer time frame for its implementation then.”

Mr Maepio said a lot of work has to be done in terms of public awareness.

Meanwhile, the relocation and re-construction of the market in Gizo is set for next year.

Reeves International won the bid for the SBD$18 million project funded by the Australian Government.

“I am happy to say that this project is already progressing well,” Mr Maepio said. “Work to relocate the market temporarily will start early January next year after the holidays.”

The Melanesian Spearhead Group stadium and an area opposite the hospital are possible locations for the temporary market.

Mr Maepio said people in the province must work together to realise plans and progress next year.

“‘Together, we build Western Province,’ the theme for this year’s Second Appointed Day, attests to the spirit of oneness,” he said. “Let us rekindle and affirm our commitment to live as one people and one nation as we commence our journey into the new year 2018 and beyond.”

By Kikiva Tuni

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