Radio New Zealand | 17 January, 2017
Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has defended a leaked sms conversation he had with an official of a bauxite mining company about tax exemptions.
The leaked texts which were published in the Sunday Star reportedly were sent on the 15th and 16th of November.
In the published parts of the sms conversation Mr Sogavare reassured an official of Bintan Mining SI Ltd that cabinet was preparing to remove all export duty on bauxite.
Bintan is the mining firm contracted by Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) to mine bauxite on Rennell Island in the Rennel and Bellona Province.
The prime minister yesterday told the newspaper, The Island Sun, the conversation was completely above board and had been taken out of context.
He said the public was mistaken if it thought a prime minister should not be speaking with investors about matters of government policy.
Mr Sogavare said it related to an earlier government decision to impose a 20 percent tax penalty on illegally mined bauxite stocks which he says has been implemented.
Mr Sogavare said he was simply informing the investor of a cabinet decision that the 20 percent tax was not be applied to legally mined bauxite stocks and that this would be backdated to cover legally mined bauxite that had been exported before the cabinet decision.
The prime minister also said he was offended at insinuations that he had been bribed to remove the 20 percent tax penalty and pointed out that there has never any export duty on bauxite to begin with.
The sms leak and the later posting of a word for word conversation between the prime minister and Island Sun reporters about the issue could result in an official investigation into a possible security breach within the Prime Minister’s office and telecommunications.