Men demand compensation from Star
A GROUP of men yesterday marched to the Solomon Star office at China Town and demanded compensation over a front page news article that appeared in the Solomon star.They claimed to be relatives of a womean referred to in the news article, who allegedly had an affair with Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.
The article focused specifically on Mr Lilo’s lawyer, Nuatali Tongarutu, putting the local media on notice not to publish anything about the allegation.
Four men arrived in a tinted car and argued the article was disrespectful.
They made threats and intimidated the editor and the reporter who penned the article.
They returned later at mid-day and insisted the matter be settled according to custom – which was the payment of compensation.
The Solomon Star contacted its lawyer, who advised against paying compensation to the men.
Our lawyer Andrew Nori wrote:
“As a lawyer from Malaita and someone with some knowledge of Malaita custom, the claim for compensation as evidenced was completely uncalled for.
“In custom, compensation is only justified when a ‘wrong has been committed’.
“My client have not committed any wrong neither in custom nor in law.”
Solomon Star chief of staff Ednal Palmer said the action of this group was a “sad day for freedom of information in Solomon Islands”.
“The news article was straight forward,” Mr Palmer said.
“The Solomon Star was merely reporting what has already been published in the social media and read by thousands of people out there.
“The focus of the article was the contents of a letter sent to Forum Solomon Islands International and all media outlets by Mr Lilo’s lawyer.”
Mr Palmer said this culture of compensation must be condemned at the highest level.
He said what happened was a clear threat to the freedom of expression and the right of the people of Solomon Islands to know.
“This allegation involves the father of the country and is of great public interest, but we take all legally precautionary measures to ensure the report only carry the drama between FSII, the PM’s lawyer and the media. The Solomon Star did not even made any claims that the PM involved in the saga.
“Therefore we are prepared to defend the freedom of information and the right of people to know, in court.
“The Solomon Star has learned from reliable sources that one or two political cronies of the prime minister were behind the group to intimidate the media, particularly this newspaper,” he said.
Mr Palmer said the freedom and the right of the people of the Solomon Islands to express and know, must never be thwarted by those with political interests and agendas.
“Yes, freedom of information comes with responsibility and that article did. Anyone in their right mind would not disagree.”
Daughter of the founder of the Solomon Star Elizabeth Siota who is related to those people said a sum of $2000 she privately gave to the men yesterday was from her own pocket and for their blood relation.
“It was on behalf of our family, for our blood relation, but not on behalf of the company, and I made that quite clear to them as well.”