By Assumpta Buchanan in Honiara
Solomon Islands police are investigating several people, including prominent female development and social justice commentator Wendy Amangongo, for recent articles published in print and social media.
Acting Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau confirmed this during his weekly press conference this week.
“There are reports received and investigators are still investigating that matter,” Mangau told reporters.
When asked by a reporter if police were focusing on Amangongo’s articles because she had allegedly breached certain regulations under the country’s state of emergency, Mangau said the investigation was not only on Amangongo but also on several others.
“What we are investigating here is to find out if there is a breach on the regulation issued under the state of public emergency that can incite illegal activities, riots, or fear among our people,” Mangau added.
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He said that if evidence was available under the regulation they could then proceed to lay the charges but if there was no evidence available to instigate charges then they would analyse that.
Asked again if police were trying to “silence” people doing their work, Mangau said that the state of public emergency regulation clearly defined it as an offence to pass on any information that would incite illegal activities, cause riot, disharmony, fear or mislead people.
“So police are mandated to look at such issues, investigate them and ensure that the regulation is enforced,” Mangau said.
Directive from Attorney-General
The Solomon Star understands the directive for police to investigate Amangongo and others came from the Attorney-General’s Chamber.
Responding to the police investigation, Amangongo said it appeared to her that the government was using the excuse of covid-19 state of public emergency to intimidate her and interfere with her constitutional rights.
“I sense the police are under undue influence by the Prime Minister’s Office,” she told the Star.
“I will continue to exercise my constitutional right to freedom of expression,” she added.
Amangongo said section 12 of the national constitution offered her protection for expressing her views.
Amangongo has penned several articles in recent weeks, some of which were critical of government actions and decisions, which she has published on print and social media.
Robust development articles on China
Pacific Media Watch reports that Amoangongo writes robust development articles for publications such as island Sun News and on her Facebook page, some of them critical of Honiara’s relationship with China.
In a recent article headed “Blacklisted by the World Bank? Engaged in Fraud?” about two state-owned Chinese companies involved in development projects in the Solomon islands, she wrote:
“In August last year, both China Railway Group (‘China Rail’) and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (‘CCECC’), both state-owned by the Chinese government, were blacklisted by the World Bank for fraudulent practices in Africa.
“Then a month later, in September 2019, China Rail [was] found again to be engaging in fraudulent practices on a hydro power project in Pakistan. China Rail received a further two-year ban from bidding for any World Bank-financed projects.
“The following month an official SIG delegation in China, headed by Hon Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, spent the day with China Rail and this included speeches by Hon Sogavare where he praised China Rail for their work and said how he hoped Solomon Islands and China Rail can work together.
“At the same time a $7 billion deal for work at Gold Ridge [gold mine involving Chinese miner Wanguo International] was announced with China Rail as the contractor for development. As to CCECC they have been awarded contracts for the development of SINU [Solomon Islands National University] in Honiara.”