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GOVERNMENT OF THE
SOLOMON ISLANDS

Commissions of Inquiry Act
COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE APRIL 2006 CIVIL UNREST IN HONIARA


Second Interim Report 7th September 2007


Department of the Prime Minister, Government of the Solomon Islands, Honiara,
Solomon Islands, September 2007


 

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page No.

Executive Summary 1
Introduction 3
Some procedural matters 3
A planned riot? 6
Liabilities and Obligations 6
Update 7
The Background to the April 2006 Civil Unrest 10
Who was involved? 14
Destruction of Property 17
Liability or Obligation of Solomon Islands Government 18
Obligation? 20
Is there a moral obligation to pay the Honiara Chinese? 21
The Obligation is with Australia? 22
What should the Government of Solomon Islands do? 24

Appendix

1 Waiver of Immunity by the Government of Australia 26
2 Email from Mick Shannon 28
3 List of Solomon Island Passports issued 29
4 Commission of Inquiry Act 30
4(A) The Rule Against Bias 37
5 RSIP Organisational Structure 56
6 Riot (Damages) Act 1886 58
7 National Disaster Report on Damages to Business Houses and Properties 63
 




COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE APRIL 2006 CIVIL UNREST IN HONIARA
Second interim report 7th September 2007

 

 

Executive Summary

The Commission reports in the interim that:

1. There is evidence that the 18th April 2006 Civil Unrest in Honiara was not spontaneous as was originally claimed but rather the event has the hall mark of having been orchestrated and planned in a broader sense of that word. There is now some evidence connecting the identity of a number of leading politicians, political groups and organisations who had in one way or another contributed to the execution of the planning for a regime change, should the previous government or elements of it return to power. The Commission’s investigation is not at this stage sufficiently convinced it is in a position in which it is proper to name those individuals, political groups and organisations that were responsible for the planning.

2. There is now a clearer picture of the unprepared status of policing on the 18th of April 2006. While the Solomon Island Police Force (SIPF) had the primary legal responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, including the security in Honiara, it was not armed, and the ultimate security of Honiara de facto was under the control of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) Participating Police Force (PPF) Combined Tactical Force (CTF).

3. There was clearly a failure in security.

4. There is conclusive evidence that the SIPF had no riot control capability on the 18th April 2006.

5. The PPF had an Operations Response Team (ORT) of about 13 persons trained in riot control.

6. There is some untested evidence to the effect that RAMSI military elements in the nature of the Combined Tactical Force (CTF) were not in Honiara on the morning of the 18th April 2006.

7. The Government of the Solomon Islands may well be exposed to claims for damages and compensation, although the precise extent of that exposure is still to be determined. The Attorney-General is writing a legal opinion that should be available very shortly. The Commission understands a further legal opinion is being sought from an Australian Queens’ Counsel.

8. The Commission is of the opinion, as it is so far advised, that the United Kingdom Riot (Damages) Act 1886 may well be considered an Act of general application, and be part of the law of the Solomon Islands. The state of the law is uncertain, and that is a best-guess, until the Commission receives authoritative legal opinion.

9. The reconstruction of Chinatown and areas close to the market may cost an estimated Sixty-nine million, seven hundred and thirty nine thousand, seven hundred Solomon Island Dollars (SBD $69,739,700) and the cost of rebuilding the Pacific Casino Hotel complex maybe an estimated Sixty million Solomon Island Dollars (SBD $60,000,000). There are also some other buildings elsewhere (Auki) that could drive the final bill up another, say, Ten million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $10,000,000).

10.The Solomon Island Government could be exposed to damages in excess of an estimated One hundred and fifty million Solomon Island dollars (SBD$150,000,000), or more.

 

INTRODUCTION

Some procedural matters

 

The Commission has had a dialogue with RAMSI officials. This took place in letters, and administrative meetings between the Commission and RAMSI officials.

 

Under the Facilitation of International Assistance Act 2003(FIA), RAMSI and PPF have immunity from Solomon Islands law. They could not be compelled to appear in the Commission.

 

That law presented some difficulty to the Commission, and two Commissioners visited the RAMSI offices and spoke with senior officers.

 

RAMSI officers have monitored the proceedings of the Commission, but PPF officers have not so far formally participated in the Commission. Initially, the Commission was told by PPF officers that there was an instruction for PPF officers to stay out of the Commission. In June that instruction was reversed.

 

The Commission as part of the way in which it has ordered its proceedings insisted that all evidence be sworn to either as testimony before the Commission, or on affidavit.

 

One of the difficulties the Commission had was in the issue of weight that should be attached to unsworn statements, as against the weight that should be given to sworn and tested evidence. There were also issues arising when PPF officers were named adversely in the course of evidence, and the need to notify the person adversely affected.

 

As the Commission became more accustomed to the way in which the general evidence was running, certain issues involving PPF appeared to need to be at least clarified, or even explored further.

 

On the 31st of August 2007 the Commission was advised by the Australian High Commission that the Government of Australia on the 20th August 2007 waived immunity to give evidence before the Commission by former PPF Commander Will Jamieson and RAMSI Special Coordinator Mr. Tim George. See Appendix 1

 

The Commission, in its meeting with RAMSI and PPF officials on the 30th August 2007, said that its preferred position was that should the Government of Australia wish to waive its immunity in relation to Solomon Islands law before the Commission, it should do so for all the purposes of the Commission as it is empowered by the Commissions of Inquiry Act, and the Commission’s Terms of Reference.

 

We thought this was fair because should the Commission exceed its jurisdiction in respect of the Act, and or the Terms of Reference, the Commission is subject to the supervision of the High Court.

 

Secondly, we did not see the necessity in giving privileges to any particular group of witnesses.

 

The Commission also indicated to the RAMSI and PPF officers some of the particular items of evidence that could affect PPF officers, causing the Commission some concern. 

 

The Commission now sets out the matters that cause it concern and effect RAMSI governments or the PPF.

 

  1. The evidence so far shows that the decision to release gas at Parliament on the 18th of April 2006 was the responsibility of the Commissioner SIPF, Mr. Castles, an Australian, and an Australian Federal Police, on secondment was the SIPF Commissioner for Police. But the SIPF had no capability of deploying gas. That capability was with PPF, under the control of the Commander PPF, Mr. Jamieson. The request to use gas was made by officers at Parliament at about 1400. The order to release gas was given to officers at Parliament at about 1515, and gas was deployed at about 1522. The Commission needs to enquire into the precise sequencing of the chain of these requests and orders, and why it took one hour 15 minutes to make a decision to deploy the gas.

 

  1. Mr. Castles is the key witness as he had the command and control of the SIPF.

 

  1. The video of the riot at Parliament given to the Commission by the SIPF may have been edited in August 2006. The Commission was told that the officer who may have done the editing had returned to Australia. The Commission needs to see the uncut version of the video and to understand why any editing, if at all, took place. The video was shot by Mr. Peza Wickam. Mr. Wickam was served with a summons to produce the uncut original version of the video to the Commission. He has not done so. The matter has now been passed to the Attorney-General for enforcement.

 

  1. It is possible to deduce from the Mick Shannon email of the 18th of April 2006, Australia had a preference for Mr. Tausinga and the Iron Bottom Sound Camp. (Appendix 2)  The sentence at the end of the email “This may be a time where the going will get tough and we will need the tough to get going” needs further exploration. While at this stage the import of that email is difficult to assess, and it may well be insignificant, it is an issue the Commission needs to address.

 

  1. RAMSI had the effective control and responsibility for security in the Solomon Islands after 2003, up to 18th of April 2006. There was no riot squad capability on the 18th of April 2006 within the SIPF because RAMSI had disarmed the SIPF, disbanded the Police Field Force and Rapid Response Unit. Much of the riot equipment was stolen in 2000. The riot seemingly occurred on the “RAMSI” watch. These are issues that present themselves clearly and the Commission believes, without at this stage deciding finally any substantive issue, that they still need explanation and exploration.

 

  1. There is a need for the Commission to have some access to whatever Australian and New Zealand records relating to the political and security situation in Honiara between the 5th April and 20th April 2006. This is essential for the work of the Commission in light of the intimate relationship between the command control of the SIPF, PPF and some of the government agencies that have in them Australian and New Zealand advisers.

 

  1. There is a need for the Australian and New Zealand Governments to fully cooperate with the Commission on the issue of foreign nationality persons given temporary protection visas in those countries during the April 2006 Unrest in Honiara. The Solomon Islands probably was the centre of a people-smuggling racket. Solomon Islands passports had been issued allegedly unlawfully preceding April 2006  and are still the subject of appeals before the Solomon Islands courts (see  Appendix 3).  There may be a possible link between the people smuggling rackets in the Solomon Islands and the rioting in Honiara in April 2006. The Commission needs complete disclosure on these issues and the full cooperation of the Australian and New Zealand Governments.

 

The Commission received an email letter of the 22nd of August 2007 from a RAMSI legal advisor saying the RAMSI Coordinator would be able to offer sworn testimony, and RAMSI/PPF had appointed Mr. Radclyffe, a private practitioner in Honiara to appear on its behalf.

 

In its dialogue with RAMSI officials the Commission said that it would like to see Mr. Castles, the former Commissioner of Police at the time of the Unrest, give evidence. Mr. Castles was not a PPF officer, but there was an opportunity to allow RAMSI to function as a communications channel. The Commission understands there maybe reluctance for Mr. Castles to travel to the Solomon Islands. Nevertheless, Mr. Castles is an important witness in the Inquiry, although at present he is beyond the jurisdiction, and not practically compellable. Certainly the Commission would like to hear him.

 

It may be possible for Mr. Castles or PPF officers no longer in the Solomon Islands, to appear in the Commission by a video-link. RAMSI officials said they would look at this option.

 

The Commission is grateful for the RAMSI and PPF assistance.

 

The Commissions of Inquiry Act

 

The Commission in its deliberations has found matters in the Commissions of Inquiry Act that cause concern. The Commission sets out these matters in Appendix 4 to this Interim Report

Delay in the Commission

 

The First Interim Report says that the proceedings of the Commission were delayed by administrative inefficiency in the Prime Ministers Department and the Finance and Treasury Departments. This had resulted in nearly six weeks lost of valuable time which impacted negatively on the ability of the Commission to get up and running from day one. The Commission under this circumstance has requested that its term be extended by one month.

 

The extension was granted on the 31st August 2007 (see Appendix 5).

 

The Commission is very grateful for the extension of its time because there is a large amount of evidence still to be collected, analyzed, synthesized, and the Final Report has to be completed.

The delays in payments have still continued since the First Interim Report. These delays have proved to be significant distractions, and have threatened the very existence of the Commission because persons entirely reliant on the Commissions funding, were almost forced to walk away from the Commission. There was also considerable anger and unnecessary discomfort because of the delays. The Commission makes recommendations for possible consideration to amend the Commissions of Inquiry Act, so as to hold those responsible for impeding a Commission of Inquiry, accountable (see Appendix 4).

 

 

 

This Interim Report

 

Without concluding in any final way, the Commission in this Second Interim Report focuses on the issues of responsibility and breaches of duty arising out of the April 2006 Unrest in Honiara.

A planned riot?

 

The Commission reports that there is evidence that the riot was planned, and that there is now some evidence of the identity of those who did that planning. The Commission’s investigation is not at the stage in which it is proper to name the individuals who were responsible for the planning. More work is needed. In particular, the Commission is obliged, by law, to notify persons of evidence adversely affecting reputation, character or conduct under section 11 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. That process is now beginning.

Liability and obligations

 

The Commission reports that major issues of liability are now clearer, but not finalised with certainty.

 

There is now a clear picture of the unprepared status of policing on the 18th of April 2006, including an allegation that no credible security information was available to the SIPF because field operators of the National Intelligence Unit (NIU) had been stood down as from the 5th of April through to the 18th April 2006 at the directive of the Commissioner for Police not to investigate political matters.

 

There is some evidence that on the morning of the 18th of April 2006 there were in fact two police forces operating in the Solomon Islands: the Solomon Island Police Force (SIPF) and the RAMSI Participating Police Force (RAMSI/PPF).

On that morning the SIPF definitely had no riot control capability.  It had been completely disarmed in 2003, and there had been no rearmament. It had no riot control equipment.

 

The PPF had an Operations Response Team (ORT) of about thirteen (13) men trained in riot control.

 

There is inconclusive evidence that the RAMSI military elements, the Combined Tactical Force (CTF), were not in Honiara on the morning of the 18th April 2006.

 

The ultimate responsibility for the security of Honiara on that morning from evidence was under the control of the RAMSI PPF.

 

There was clear evidence that weak intelligence assessment by SIPF had caused a failure in security alertness in Honiara on the morning of the 18th of April 2006.

 

The Commission has been partially successful in identifying the state of the law, and the likely quantum of the liability of the Solomon Islands Government to rehabilitate and or compensate the victims of the Unrest. In this respect our report is tentative, and based upon a continuing investigation. However, because of the serious implications of these matters, the Commission is of the opinion, that our partial and tentative findings should be reported in the interim.

 

The Commission has also developed some options on the way forward to address the issue of the broader moral obligation to victims in its final phase of the investigation

In the period between the 12th July 2007 and the writing of this Second Interim Report it was not possible for the Commission to obtain an authoritative legal opinion on the issue of the legal liability of the Government for damage. The Attorney-General now has this work to hand, and it is expected to be finalised quickly.

 

The Commission can report that the Government of the Solomon Islands is exposed to claims for damages and compensation, although the precise extent of that exposure is still to be determined, and this should be done in the final phase of the Commission’s work.

 

The Commission is of the opinion, as it is so far advised, that the United Kingdom Riot (Damages) Act 1886 may well be considered an Act of general application, and be part of the law of the Solomon Islands (see Appendix 6). The state of the law is uncertain, and that is a best-guess, until the Commission receives authoritative legal opinion.

 

The Commission has as evidence before it that the reconstruction of Chinatown and areas close to the market could cost about Sixty-nine million, seven hundred and thirty nine thousand, seven hundred Solomon Island dollars (SBD $69,739,700).

 

The Commission has also had information that the cost of rebuilding the Pacific Casino Hotel complex was about Sixty million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $60,000,000) . But this is still to be verified and confirmed.

 

There are also some other buildings elsewhere (Auki) that could drive the final bill up another, say, an estimated Ten million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $10,000,000).

 

The Commission will do its best to firm these figures for the Final Report, but at this stage of the Second Interim Report, the Solomon Island Government could be exposed to damages in excess of $150 million, or more.

Update

 

In terms of our First Interim Report, we provide the following update:

 

1.       The process of selecting a prime minister after an election in the Solomon Islands, as in Melanesia, is a period of political excitement and risk. Given the risk factor often associated with this process, a police riot capability should have been on standby and ready to deploy on the morning of the 18th of April 2006 to deal with any civil unrest.

There is no change in the Commission’s opinion expressed in the First Interim Report on that statement.

2.       The Solomon Islands Government had no independent control of its coercive arm of state, on the morning of the 18th of April 2006. Its riot squad and Police Field Force had been disbanded. Riot gear weapons and police personal protection armour were under the de facto, if not de jure “control” of the RAMSI/Participating Police Force.

The evidence gathered since the 12th of July 2007 shows the Royal Solomon Island Police armoury was raided in 2000 by criminals, and virtually all equipment was stolen, or subsequently was allowed to decay to the point of it being useless. Equipment was not replaced.

3.       The Solomon Islands Police Force was, in effect, unprepared without riot gear, or a riot trained capability on the morning of the 18th April 2006.

There is no change in the Commission’s opinion expressed in the First Interim Report on that statement.

4.       Prudent policing required preparation of detailed Standard Operating Procedures, and an operational order to secure Honiara from any likely unrest

There is no change in the Commission’s opinion expressed in the First Interim Report on that statement. There is evidence of positive development in the preparation of operational procedures, orders, and practices since the 20th of April 2006. Police operations procedures and practices, particularly as they relate to a riot control capability have changed, and changed for the better in the view of the Commission.

5.       By the morning of the 18th of April 2006, senior officers controlling Solomon Islands security had

(a)     inadequately assessed the risks of civil unrest associated with the election of a prime minister

(b)     no  detailed plan to deal with potential unrest

(c)     insufficient:

                                                                                                   i.      numbers of police

                                                                                                  ii.      trained riot-control capability

                                                                                                iii.      equipment

to deal with the risks of civil unrest associated with the election of a prime minister.

There is no change in the Commission’s opinion expressed in the First Interim Report on that statement. There is however, evidence that has since come to light, to the effect that the SIPF security intelligence and assessment capacity had been stood down by direction of the Commissioner of Police from 05th April 2006 through to 18th of April 2006. The reason for this being that this was a highly political period and that the SIPF had no business investigating political matters.

6.       There is evidence of a degree of consensus amongst political groups present in Honiara, that in the event of a prime minister being elected by Parliament who was not of their choice, or liking, they would force a regime change.

There is evidence that individuals and political groups planned the Unrest.

7.       The Commission is of the opinion that the assertions by some witnesses that the outbreak of violence at Parliament House was

 

(a)     spontaneous and

(b)     a reaction to pent-up anger,

(c)     driven by the need to get rid of corruption, and

(d)     the need to break Chinese influence on political groups

(e)     a reaction to the Participating Police Force firing either flash-grenades or tear-gas

are, in part, contrived, do not ring-true, and conflict with other evidence:

·         of video footage and the behaviour of the crowd before the announcement by the Governor-General that Mr. Rini had been elected as prime minister.

·         Of stone-throwing before the use of tear-gas, or flash-grenades

·         Of independent witnesses during the period leading up to the  18th of April 2006, saying they were warned to stay away from central Honiara as there was going to be trouble.

There is no change in the Commission’s opinion expressed in the First Interim Report on that statement; except for the fact that new evidence that individuals and political groups were involved in the planning of the unrest meant the outbreak of violence at the Parliament was not spontaneous.

 

The Background to the April 2006 Civil Unrest

Some of the key events of the April 2006 Unrest

 

·         20th March 2006 Joint Intelligence Group report 5263 Malaitan persons travelling by boat to Honiara.

·         26th march 2006 Police report a named candidate in a campaign speech racially vilified the Chinese community, and said he would release MEF members from Rove prison if he was elected.

·         1st April 2006: A number of senior appointments took place in the Solomon Islands Police Force as part of its development and transition. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Organisational structure, as at 18th of April 2006, may be seen at Appendix 5 to this report.

·         Mr. Sikua, who had been Provincial Police Commander Honiara, became Acting Assistant Commissioner Operations.

·         Mr Kola, on the same day, was appointed Provincial Police Commander, Honiara.

·         2nd of April 2006 Police report a named candidate in a campaign speech racially vilified the Chinese community, and said he wanted to run them out of the Solomon Islands

·         5th of April 2006, after the results of the elections became known, elected Members of Parliament split into groups centred in “camps” at the Honiara Hotel, Iron Bottom Sound Hotel, and later, the Pacific Casino Hotel.

·         Some MPs either lived outside these hotels in private accommodation, or stayed in other hotels.

·         Very quickly two camps emerged:  the Honiara Hotel became the “camp” of the MPs led by Mr. Kemakeza.

·         10th of April 2006:

·         The Iron Bottom Sound Hotel became the “camp” of Members who were in opposition to the group of Mr. Kemakeza. Named MPs and others booked into Iron Bottom Sound Hotel. They are seen in the company of a named lawyer. Police allege the lawyer was the legal advisor to the Malaita Eagle Force.

·         Eventually, a small group of Members, lead by the current Prime Minister, Mr Sogavare, established a “camp” at the Pacific Casino Hotel.

·         A crucial political issue emerged: which camp had sufficient numbers to appoint the new prime minister, at the secret ballot to be held on the 18th of April 2006 in Parliament. “Numbers” became the critical issue.

·         Muscular competition started to induce members from one camp, to another

·         Acting Deputy Commissioner Mr. Siapu assumed the responsibilities of Deputy Commissioner Operations from PPF Deputy Commissioner Mr. Jamieson. This was part of the process of development going on in the SIPF, in which PPF passed responsibility to SIPF officers.

·         11th of April 2006 Police report community rumours that if a named candidate is not elected the Honiara hotel would be first to burn. Mr. T Chan, owner of the Honiara Hotel was in fear for himself, and the wider community.

·         12th of April 2006: senior police officers wrote and presented to their colleagues, an operation order, called Operation New Vision. This order planned policing for the 18th of April 2006.

·         Operation New Vision planned purely a ceremonial role for the police. It had no plan at all for controlling any disorder. All senior operations police officers, in evidence, maintained, there was no threat of disorder, so there was no need to plan for disorder.

·         Operation New Vision originated in a request from the Office of the then Prime Minister. That office had requested police to provide a ceremonial presence at the announcement of the name of the new prime minister. This operation order was designed by the Provincial Police Commander Mr. Kola, and endorsed by his superior, Acting Assistant Commissioner for Operations, Mr. Sikua .

·         This operational order bound PPF, which had a role of complementing and supporting the SIPF. Each senior SIPF officers had a counter-part PPF officer, who accompanied them on duty.

·         The evidence the Commission has from the three key SIPF officers, at the time, Acting Deputy Commissioner Operations, Johnson Siapu, Assistant Commissioner Edmund Sikua, and the Provincial Police Commander Honiara, Mr. Kola, was that their relationships with their PPF counterparts were professional, sound, and good.

·         13th of April 2006 Police report a named MP held a meeting at the Airport Motel

·         14th of April 2006

·         Mr. Kola, the Provincial Police Commander for Honiara, was instructed to cancel the parade at Parliament. There is evidence this instruction was given by John Saunana of the Prime Minister’s Department.

·         Police alleged that a named MP made a statement to the effect:  “if anything goes wrong proceed with lawlessness”.

·         17th of April 2006

·         At 0938 there had been speculation within RAMSI that Mr Rini was most likely to win the prime minister elections. According to the Mick Shannon email, reported widely in the Australian press, and available to the Commission in full, the Australian High Commissioner made a similar assessment.

·         At about 1500, Provincial Police Commander, Mr. Kola chaired a briefing with his officers to let them know there had been a change in the operational order Operation New Vision. There would now be no inspection of the guard of honour, and policing would be confined to “crowd control”.

·         The Iron Bottom Sound Camp had a core group of 11 ethnic  Malaitan members of parliament,

·         There were other MPs from Guadalcanal, Western and other provinces, that waxed and waned around 11, or up to 13 members, or so.

·         The Iron Bottom Sound was guarded by Malaitan relatives of the Malaitan MPs, some of these guards, and MPs, allegedly had connections with the Malaita Eagle Force, combatants in the ethnic tension. 

·         One of the ethnic Malaitan MPs was known to police, he had a criminal record. He was suspected by police of being a commander in the Malaita Eagle Force.

·         Mr. Tausinga MP, from the Western Province, was the Iron Bottom Sound Camp candidate for prime minister

·         There is no evidence before the Commission any of the operational police commanders knew of the situation at Iron Bottom Sound Camp. The Commission infers that PPF, which had a separate intelligence capability, did not know too. If the SIPF and the PPF knew, they are yet to tell the Commission.

·         There is evidence of the existence of a Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) located at Guadalcanal Beach Resort (GBR) the operational HQ of RAMSI/PPF. The Commission, at this stage has no evidence of the date that JIG began to operate, who were its members, or how it transacted its business.

·         Acting Assistant Commissioner Operations Mr. Sikua gave evidence that intelligence he received said Mr. Tausinga would win the election, and because that was what the public wanted, there would be no trouble. The Commission notes this intelligence assessment contradicted the views in RAMSI of Mr. Shannon (above), and in fact proved to be wrong.

·         18th of April 2006,

·         The evidence of the Rev. Leslie Boseto, MP was in the morning, there was a realisation, in the Iron Bottom Sound Camp, that they only had 22 votes, and there was a chance they would loose the vote. The Camp went up to Parliament with the hope they would be lucky, and entice someone from the other camps to their side at the last minute.

·         The Commission infers:

·         A realistic assessment of the chances of any last minute enticement from the Honiara Hotel Camp to the Iron Bottom Sound Camp would have been low.

·         The risk of the Iron Bottom Sound Camp loosing would have been quite high, because the numbers had been closely assessed, and were tight.

·         The bid for power by the Iron Bottom Sound Camp was slipping from their grasp.

·         The police had no intelligence that there may be violence that day.

·         RAMSI officials have told the Commission informally that the PPF assessment of the risks of violence on the 18th of April 2006 was low.

·         The SIPF had no riot gear.

·         There was no SIPF riot squad.

·         PPF had a Operational Response Team (ORT) based near Henderson Airport. It had at the most 13 men. It was a specialist squad trained for emergencies, including riots. It did not move from Henderson until it was summoned in the afternoon.

·         0800 on the 18th of April 2006 a crowd began to gather at Parliament.

·         Police video shows the crowd was largely male, although there were some women near the Leaf House side of the building. This crowd was quiet, somewhat sullen, and tense, with forced humour. Although it was a peaceful crowd, growing from about 300 to well over 600 by mid-day, in the morning the mood of the crowd was ambiguous.

·         The Commission is of the opinion that a prudent and alert police commander would have been suspicious, during that morning, and should have kept the crowd under close scrutiny.

·         There was no evidence from senior police that they identified the character of the crowd during the morning, or that they were alert to its potentiality to become troublesome.

·         36 SIPF officers and 9 PPF advisors were present for general crowd control duties at Parliament. They had no armour, no shields, no helmets partly as they had no instructions to expect trouble. In any case the SIPF simply had no equipment at all, as the police armoury had been raided in 2000, and equipment had not been replaced as of 18th April 2006.

·          All senior officers told the Commission that police intelligence put the threat assessment as “low”. No special intelligence threat assessment had been done on the risks arising from the election of a prime minister.

·         A number of well-known political figures were in the crowd.

·         They Included a team from Winds of Change, a non-government organisation that had been campaigning for clean elections, for an end to political corruption, the then President of Malaita Ma’asina Forum, and Malaita Eagle Force ex-combatants in the ethnic tension.

·         Members of the crowd gave interviews to the media in the morning. Those interviewed said they wanted a change in government. They wanted to move away from what they claimed was corruption in government.

·         Winds of Change NGO activists had prepared a letter in an envelope to each new Member of Parliament. The letter asked members to vote honestly for the candidate of their choice, and not to accept bribes.

·         The Commission assesses the evidence of the state of mind of this crowd as being ambiguous.

·         This was not, during the morning, an openly angry crowd, but there were danger signs: very few women, sullenness, the presence of some “hard-faces”, known “tough-men”, clear messaging that the old government must go. It was not a “happy crowd”, but a strong group waiting in anticipation, that should have raised a prudent concern about what would happen, if things did not go their way.

·         The Commission draws the inference from these conditions, in the context of a political process arising from an unresolved ethnic tension or civil war. Prudently, a riot squad formed-up near Parliament, would have been appropriate.

·         The SIPF had no riot squad.

·         1200 the Governor-General lead a group of Members of Parliament onto the balcony at the eastern or main entrance of Parliament. There was no sound amplification equipment at this location. An announcement was made that Mr. Rini had been elected prime minister. The crowd re acted in a hostile manner, mainly shouting, and protesting the result of the vote

·         1300, in response to a request for assistance Mr Kola, Honiara Provincial Police Commander went to Parliament. He was accompanied by his PPF counterpart Mr. John Harvey. At that time Mr. Tonisi was Forward Commander.   Mr Kola saw signs of trouble, and took over as Forward Commander.

·         At around 1300, a named political figure engaged the Speaker of Parliament, Sir Kenilorea. The named political figure was demanding that Mr. Rini resign.

·         1330, approximately, Acting Assistant Commissioner Sikua, Superintendent Gwen Ratu, and PPF advisor Graham Arthur went to Parliament. They went to Parliament to liaise with the Clerk regarding the swearing-in ceremony of the new prime minister.

·         Between 1300 and 1400 the situation deteriorated. Stones started to fly. It was too difficult for the police to talk to the crowd. There was an attempt by police to extract Prime Minister Rini from the rear entrance of Parliament. This entrance is over looked by a high embankment, and police were stoned mercilessly by the crowd.

·         There is some evidence that after 1300 a large crowd was waiting at Chinatown to hear the results of the election of the Prime Minister. The Commission needs to explore this issue further, as it is possible it points objectively to planning or coordination of the rioting.

·         Although Mr. Kola was the Forward Commander he had no power over the use of CS gas.

·         The evidence shows that there was a delay in releasing the gas, as the situation had deteriorated, and senior SIPF officers thought that gas should have been used earlier.

·          Evidence tendered by an NIU security intelligence field operative, is that CS gas was released as early as 1300 at the time stone-throwing started. This apparent inconsistency with previous evidence needs to be investigated further. The Commission needs to look at the precise sequencing of the stone-throwing, the arrival of the ORT, the use of flash-bang grenades, and the discharges of all CS gas. The reason why there needs to be further investigation is because it has been alleged that the discharge of CS gas provoked the wider rioting in Honiara. The evidence from the NIU security intelligence field operative supports this type of submission.

·         At this stage of our proceedings the delay in releasing CS gas has been explained because the ORT had to travel to Parliament from Henderson. There was a continuing attempt to try to talk the crowd out of violence. The final order to release gas had to come from Mr. Castles the Commissioner.

Why Did It Happen?
The evidence is beginning to show  there was a combination of -

  the unsettled background of the ethnic tension, with many issues arising from the ethnic tension unresolved

 

(b)     widespread poverty in the Honiara settlements, high levels of youth and women’s unemployment

 

(c)     within the Honiara and wider Solomon Islands community there was a perception of long-standing widespread corruption in government, as well as in the wider community, including private business, perceptions of the break-down in government systems, particularly as they relate to land, and frustration over the deterioration of government infrastructure assets such as roads, shipping services, and the general inability to deliver to the people services such as education and health.

 

(d)     an identifiable group of politicians who saw corruption and anti-Chinese sentiment as an opportunity to justify the use of bully-boy tactics to force their way into power, after they had lost the election for their choice of prime minister

 

 

 

Who was involved?

 

There is now untested evidence of identifiable political entities, political groups, and individuals in the private sector as well as government  who in the broader sense of the word planned  the April 2006 Unrest in Honiara.

 

The dilemma the Commission has here is with the strict interpretation of the word “planned” which implies a visible organised process, and has modern managerial connotations. So far, there is no evidence of an organised planning per se, but rather an understanding of a scheme or an intention to take power after the election if things went badly for a certain political group and individuals.

 

Evidence points to a far more organic process, in which commonalities are understood, and do not have to be articulated, or discussions on ways and means are kept to a minimum. Persons with close relationships, common belief, and discipline, can move forward in a joint purpose, without the elaboration of planning, much in the same manner as team-work in sport. Once the action starts, there will probably be little talk, because the players know what to do, and execute with innate skill. The analogy with team-sport, or battle, is not inappropriate. Those activities are inchoate. It is possible to broadly sketch an objective, therein, but the events quickly overtake the planning process and events then develop a life of their own. Planning at that stage becomes redundant. The action is in the hands of individuals, their ability to work as a team, and group-cohesion.

 

The irony of this type of joint action is that it has its counterpart in both Melanesian traditional ways of doing things, and in the esoteric corners of modern government. Within modern management, it is seen particularly in the way in which the more covert and secretive parts of executive government operate.

 

Both have cultures of secrecy and deception in the context of being results orientated, and intensely practical. Both are capable of intricate operations, team-work, with the minimum  visibility and plausible deniability.

 

That the Solomon Islands and Solomon Islanders are no strangers to these dual cultures is evidenced in Roger Keesing’s study of the murder of Commissioner Bell on Malaita in the 1920s, the book Lightening Meets the West Wind. It is entirely relevant to these proceedings that Keesing studied the clash between colonial bureaucracies, (the imposition of taxes), and Malaitan resistance, the ramo phenomena, and a warrior culture. This would need to be further investigated.

 

There is some ambiguous and untested evidence from police records that needs to be resolved. There was an email conversation between two PPF officers that may point to RAMSI/Australian efforts at regime change.

The essence of this evidence is -

 

  • Australia would not be happy with the return of a Kemakeza government, that was linked to either the Malaita Eagle Force, or the Guadalcanal militias.
  • AusAid had supported Winds of Change in a “Clean Election”/anti-corruption campaign.
  • PPF had detailed records of MEF membership and structure
  • PPF had allegedly removed all electronically stored intelligence records from Special Branch in Honiara and transferred that data to Canberra.
  • Commissioner Castles and PPF officers had allegedly directed SIPF intelligence officers to stay away from parliamentary politics
  • The effect of this alleged direction, was to stop the SIPF police intelligence unit from monitoring the political camps.
  • As the PPF would have only a limited capability of penetrating the inner circles of Solomon Island political power, because of their ethnicity and inability to understand languages,
  • the disablement of the SIPF intelligence unit was a significant restraint on normal policing. There was no monitoring of the different political camps.

It is possible to interpret these facts in the context of regime-change activities applied in other countries over the last twenty (20) years. Regime change involves the following elements:

  • Foreign power opposition to what is considered to be bad governance, corruption, or undemocratic politicians
  • Foreign power “will” to effect regime-change after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. This includes developing the ability to plan and use covert operations to achieve regime change.
  • The fostering and funding of pro-democracy, anti-corruption, good-governance civil society movements
  • The use of “Peoples Power” to force corrupt governments out of office

While there is little credible evidence at this stage that Australia had a regime change program running in Honiara in April 2006, what the evidence does do is point, to the vulnerability of foreign forces in a strange land, to innuendo and conspiracy-theory.

 

Who participated in the activities relating to the April 2006 Unrest?

There is some evidence that there is a link to the MPs and their supporters connected with the Iron Bottom Sound Camp with parts of the crowd that rioted at Parliament House. This evidence, at this stage, is not strong.

There is some evidence too, that supporters of other political camps, the Ma’asina Malaita movement, Winds of Change advocacy group, and others including private sector interests, were among the crowd at the Parliament House. There is some evidence of the presence of unemployed youths sharing substances from water bottles that could be nothing other than kwaso.

The final phase of the Commission’s continuing investigation would provide conclusive evidence to the real identity of those who participated in the April 2006 civil unrest in Honiara.

 

Activities connected therewith and leading to the April 2006 Unrest

There is reliable evidence that during the 2006 election campaign on Malaita it was anticipated that there would be violence if Fred Fono got elected. During this period, threats were made against Fred Fono MP, and reported to the police.

There is some evidence that threats of lawlessness in Honiara were frequently uttered by MPs during the king-making period leading up to the April 2006 Civil Unrest In Honiara.

Some evidence also exists that indicated the Chinese business community were being advised to put away money where it is safe. Indeed the evidence does show that they actually heeded the advice, during the period leading up to the 18th of April 2006.

 

Activities immediately before the April 2006 Unrest

There is evidence that persons in the Honiara settlements, and on the streets of Honiara, the day before, and on the morning of the 18th April 2006, were warned that there was going to be trouble and to stay away from the  Centre of Honiara. This evidence is not strong.

 

Activities during the April 2006 Unrest

There is evidence that there were persons present at Parliament who were determined to oppose the election of Mr. Rini, or those connected with the previous Kemakeza government. These persons can be seen clearly in the video and have yet to be identified. The minimum that can be said about these persons is they did nothing to stop the stone-throwing at the police, and that in our judgement, if they had exercised their minds, they could have brought the crowd under control.

Francis Mete, at the time President of the Malaita Maásina Forum, was present from about 0800 at Parliament House. He is a senior person in terms of years, a former First Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

The way in which stones were gathered, stock-piled, the way in which individuals, and small groups of individuals ran amongst vehicles at Parliament and set them on fire points to some arrangement of purpose.

 

Who spearheaded the April 2006 Unrest?

There are individuals who took a prominent role at Parliament. It is not proper at this stage of the proceedings to identify these individuals.

 

Identify any MPs involved? 

There is evidence that directly links MPs associated with the Iron Bottom Sound Camp to have aided and abetted the violence at Parliament House, to the extent of supplying the crowd with water and biscuits. The purpose of this aiding and abetting could be to ensure that the crowd remained in place besieging Parliament.

 

Some evidence exists that two senior MPs who are now ministers in the Government were heard to have verbally urged elements of the crowd to keep up the pressure on the PM-elect to resign.

 

Three senior MPs, and one or two leading political activists who attempted to talk to the crowd actually did more harm than good. One in particular, who sadly has since passed away, had encouraged the crowd in that he told them they had the right under the constitution to express their views and dissatisfaction over the election of the prime minister.

 

MPs who executed the Riots?

The Commission is not in a position to reveal the names of the MPs who may have planned, organised, or executed the riot, as it has to comply with section 13 of the Commission of Inquiries Act, and notify persons who are adversely affected by allegations against them.

 

Destruction of Property

Fifty seven (57) buildings were burnt down in Chinatown. Seventeen (17) buildings were burnt down elsewhere.

At this stage of our investigation we are not able to put a valuation on the real property destroyed, but we can estimate the figure may be between Eighty to One hundred million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $80 ~ $100 million). The value of rebuilding the Chinatown and Central Market burnt properties has been estimated at Sixty three million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $63,000,000), “assuming a better local planning scheme especially for Chinatown. The accuracy of this estimate is deemed to be about 20% (plus or minus)”National Disaster Council “Engineering Assessment of Buildings Damaged and Destroyed by Fire, Location Chinatown and Opposite Central Market (Honiara)”.

 

This valuation does not include the value of 17 buildings destroyed in other locations, including the value of the Pacific Casino Hotel. The Commission has no evidence of the cost of re-building the Pacific Casino Hotel complex, but it is thought to be in the order of Sixty million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $60,000,000).

 

The Commission has not identified the value of personal property (goods and chattels) losses. These could be considerable as they would include loss of stock-in-trade.

 

There was wide spread looting. The value of the goods looted at this stage of the inquiry is not known. But the value of goods burnt in the arson attacks, and the value of goods looted, if proved in a court of law, may well be included as a head of damage in a claim for negligence. Victims will produce their inventories at the time of the attacks, should they decide to go to court.

 

The Commission does not have any terms of reference to allow it to investigate the value of the loss of jobs and consequential  losses.

 

 

The Liability or Obligation of Solomon Islands Government to rehabilitate and/or compensate for damage loss or destruction of their property any victims of the April 2006 Civil unrest

 

 

At this stage of our investigations, there is some chance that the Government of the Solomon Islands would have to pay out damages. The amount of damage may be very large, in excess of $140 million.

 

The law is as follows:

 

Constitution:          8    Protection from deprivation of property             

 

(1) No property of any description shall be compulsorily taken possession of, and no interest in or right over property of any description shall be compulsorily acquired, except where the following conditions are satisfied, that is to say—

       

(a) the taking of possession or acquisition is necessary or expedient in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town or country planning or the development or utilisation of any property in such a manner as to promote the public benefit; and

(b) there is reasonable justification for the causing of any hardship that may result to any person having an interest in or right over the property; and

(c) provision is made by a law applicable to that taking of possession or acquisition—

(i) for the payment of reasonable compensation (the valuable consideration of which may take the form of cash or some other form and may be payable by way of lump sum or by instalments) within a reasonable period of time having due regard to all the relevant circumstances; and

(ii) securing to any person having an interest in or right over the property a right of access to the High Court, whether direct or on appeal from any other authority, for the determination of his interest or right, the legality of the taking of possession or acquisition of the property, interest or right, and the reasonableness of the compensation and the period of time within which it shall be paid.

The Constitution protects the property rights of all persons from unjust expropriation by the Government.

The Commission has identified the UK law, the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. This piece of colonial legislation may be of “general application” and, therefore in effect in the Solomon Islands. There is no clear answer to that issue, because 19 years after Independence Solomon Islands law is still littered with UK statutes of general applicability.

If the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 is not in effect in the Solomon Islands, then the general civil law of wrongs (or torts) would determine whether or not the Government of the Solomon Islands had been negligent. That is judge-made law. The problem is there are no precedents to guide the judges because in England, since 1886, the payment of riot damages has largely been an administrative procedure, and the relevant page of the most common legal encyclopedia (36 Halsbury para 243 (4th ed) ) does not cite any case law. So the High Court of the Solomon Islands would have to make the law itself, either by saying there was no action available at law in the Solomon Islands for riot damage, or by “inventing” a new action.

If it is valid in the Solomon Islands, the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 says the victims have a claim on the Solomon Islands Government, so there is a risk, under current constitutional and legal arrangements, and the Solomon Islands Government would be found liable by the High Court, and ordered to pay damages.

Alternatively, the victims of the riot may be able to convince a court that the Government owed them a duty of care, and did not protect them from property damage. They may have a right to sue at Common Law. The right to sue in the courts is itself a property right known as a Chose in Action.

If Parliament attempts to cancel the right to sue for damage over the Honiara riots, then the victims will go to the High Court and argue section 8, above, of the Constitution, because they have been deprived of their property rights to sue. The Constitution says compensation in any successful claim against the Solomon Islands Government, would have to be paid in a reasonable time, or if there is a statute, by installment.

The Crown Proceedings Act allows the Government to be sued in the courts.

But it is not possible to get execution against the Government to recover damages in default of payment, or in plain English, the Sheriff is not allowed to seize government property and sell them off.

The law says that a certificate is to be prepared by the court, it goes to the Attorney-General, and then to the Accountant-General, who then pays the amount ordered by the court.

What would happen if the courts found the Government liable, and the Government did not pay-up there was a no satisfaction, or only partial satisfaction, of the judgment order? 

If after the court issued the certificate of the order, the amount was not paid, in a reasonable time, then there would be a crisis between the judiciary and the executive.

There would be the possibility of the judges issuing contempt orders against members of the executive.

It is better to avoid that situation for a number of obvious reasons.

23 Satisfaction of orders against the Crown

(1) Where in any civil proceedings by or against the Crown… any order (including an order for costs) is made by any court in favour of any person against the Crown or against a Government department or against an officer of the Crown as such, the proper officer of the court shall, …, issue to that person a certificate containing particulars of the order:.. 

(2) A copy of any certificate issued under this section may be served by or on behalf of the person in whose favour the order is made upon the Attorney-General.

(3) … the certificate shall state the amount so payable, and the Accountant-General shall, subject as hereinafter provided, pay to the person entitled, or to his duly authorised representative, if any, the amount appearing by the certificate to be due to him together with the interest:…

(4) aforesaid no execution or attachment or process in the nature thereof shall be issued out of any court for enforcing payment by the Crown of any such money or costs as aforesaid, and no person shall be individually liable under any order for the payment by the Crown, or any Government department, or any officer of the Crown as such, of any such money or costs.                  

As we noted in our 1st Interim Report we had written to the Acting Attorney- General on the 14th of June 2007, and the Secretary of the Prime Ministers Office on the 20th June 2007, asking for a competent legal opinion on these issues. Our letters asked for permission to hire an experienced Honiara private practitioner to provide an opinion. We also asked the acting Attorney-general for an opinion. We received no written response to our letters. During the life of the Commission, the Government and government lawyers have been under international and internal pressure. “Crisis” and “siege” were common, although more recently the Government seems to have gained some control over events. We have had verbal response to the effect that the Attorney-General will provide an opinion. As at today’s date, we have not received an opinion, and the Commission has been left to its own devices. The Commission anticipates the Attorney-Generals opinion will be ready almost immediately. If it becomes available we will append it as an Appendix to this Interim Report.

The Commission has had to do its best, with somewhat limited resources. Our very preliminary assessment of the damages from the April 2006 Riot is they are worth, at a minimum, $140 million; and that is a conservative figure. We set the source of our estimate at Appendix 7.

 

Obligation?

 

What is the problem? Why shouldn’t the Government just let the law run its course, and pay the damages out? Is the Government morally obliged to pay out in excess of  One hundred and forty million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $140,000,000)  with a 20%  plus or minus accuracy factor?

Legal issues have consequences in political economy. In bold form the issue in terms of political economy is: Are the rural producers of the Solomon Islands, morally obliged to pay the Chinese in Honiara for the riot damage?

Under the state of the current law, in effect, the Solomon Island taxpayer may well end-up footing the bill for the April 2006 Riot. In aggregate, the sum is very large and the problem is that significant resources otherwise dedicated to rural improvement, will have to be set aside to pay the Honiara urban Chinese, or foreign-owned insurance companies.

There is a danger the country would have to go into debt, or it could otherwise disturb the budget process. It could build up ever greater resentment against the Chinese. The wealth of the Solomon Islands comes off the sweat and the backs of rural producers: logs, fish, copra, palm oil etc. It is the Solomon Island taxpayer who will end-up paying these damages. That in itself, may produce resentment, because the rural taxpayer may be of the view that the transfer of wealth is unfair, unjust, or inequitable. It may cause even more trouble.

 

Is there a moral obligation to pay the Honiara Chinese?

There is a fundamental racist basis to this question. We put the question because we are of the view that the underlying premise needs to be exposed. Some Honiara Chinese were perceived to be involved, along with local politicians and officials, in corrupt acts that gave rise to the anger that fueled the rioting. The Commission is still to address this issue in detail. The danger is, in future, unless Chinese corrupt activity is curtailed, anger may over-flow, yet again.

However, the anger against Chinese corruption was ambiguous. First there is genuine anger about corruption, and the corruption of the Chinese. Evidence before the Commission from the Honiara settlements, and generally, attests to that.

Second, the evidence of the anger against the Chinese as a driving force for the start of the riot at Parliament House has a contrived and superficial quality. It is very similar to the allegations made against the Jews in Germany during the period leading to the Second World War. In times of unrest and economic hardship, opportunists not infrequently pick-on racial or ethnic minorities, as scapegoats. Racist allegations are then used to justify illegal acts. We think there was some of this in the April 2006 Riot. Leaders in front of Parliament used anti-Chinese racist slogans.

The allegation about Chinese corruption is an allegation easily made, but almost impossible to disprove.

It was flung in the face of Mr. Rini after his election as prime minister was announced on the 18th of April 2006.

Many of the leaders knew about that type of corruption, probably participated in it, and closed a blind-eye to it. One leading politician questioned by the Commission on his membership of the Kemakeza Government in the light of the public perception of that government’s link to Chinese corruption, responded  -

These are allegations, but my frank opinion is the sale of government land or land in Honiara was not only done by the last government. It has been going on for ages. Previous successive governments were given land left and right. Giving it to locals and then locals selling it to Chinese businessmen. That is the allegation that was spread against Kemakeza’s government.

Well as I’ve said, one is innocent unless proven guilty. The fact is that I joined the Kemakeza government in November 2005 because there was no strong leadership from Malaita in the Cabinet. So I took it as a regional representation, given due respect to my other colleagues from Malaita. They were not focal, they were not to push for certain developments in Malaita. So I realize that Malaita would be losing out in the national front if we continue to have Cabinet ministers like I name them in the last government. There was nothing for Malaita. That’s the main reason I joined the Kemakeza government. And I took up Planning and there were budget allocations in 2006 that I pushed for Malaita, like the Bina Harbour Project. Much talked about Bina harbor since 2000 when Ulufa’alu  government get out, there was no allocation for Bina harbor until 2005 when I joined the Government but it never was implemented because we were thrown out of government in 2006. So one of the reasons I joined the Kemakeza Government was fair representation on a regional basis; being a strong leader for Malaita. 

Whatever corruption allegations, they have to prove it in court and it’s not the whole government; it may be one or two ministers being involved. And the right channel is there are courts. That’s how I look at it.”

Indeed the whole Honiara economy seems to have been geared to giving the Chinese what they needed (land, citizenship, passports, business licenses), for a kick-back. So it is not surprising Chinese corruption is not a subject that was readily debated in Parliament.

Then there were the numerous unnamed Solomon Islanders, the Commission saw in the videos and still-photographs exhibited before us, who entered Chinese stores, and looted them. They stole the property of others. The stores were set alight in a callous indifference to human life, because the rioters could never be sure no one was in the burning buildings. It was in deed entirely fortuitous no one was burnt alive, or maimed. Nevertheless the great bulk of Solomon Island rioters targeted Chinese property, as distinct from the property of others, and that speaks for itself. The resentment against the Chinese was present, and part of that resentment was about corruption. Corruption had become intermingled with racism.

What about those people in Honiara of Chinese ethnic origin who have always acted lawfully, and have not indulged in corrupt activity? Does the morality of obligation say they should suffer, because of the sins or delectations of others with the same chromological make-up?

Although things were not always so in the past, these days, our Christian morality does not allow collective responsibility.  Our faith teaches us we are each responsible for our own sins, and accountable to God, in person. And on that matter, the law follows morality.

The Commission now sets out some competing arguments of the issue of who is morally obliged to pay.

The Obligation is with Australia?

It was not the Government of the Solomon Islands that let the riot happened. On the 18th of April 2006, in effect, there was no real government in Honiara. The newly elected MPs were in “camps” on that morning, still arguing over the fruits of office. Although legally and formally the Government of Mr. Kemakeza was still in office, but because of the thin line of transition that exists between the general election and the installation of a new government in office, it can be argued that effective government was in the hands of officials. The Solomon Islands Police Force was commanded by an Australian, and in effect under the control and the command of RAMSI, that was led by Australia, and, in the main paid for, by Australia. In effect, an intervention force was in place on the ground in Honiara on the 18th of April 2006 legally under cover of the FIA.

The riot occurred on the “Australian watch”. 

It appears that senior Solomon Islands police may have not done their duty as well, but they were commanded by foreigners, dispirited, many recently appointed, in the police restructuring process, above their level of experience, or competency.

De facto, policing was under the command of foreigners. It may well be that will provide no protection to the Solomon Islands Government should it be sued. RAMSI and PPF are legal creatures springing from international agreements, and the FIA, and are otherwise immune from civil suit, unless they waive the immunity.

So does the Australian taxpayer have the moral obligation to pick up the bill for the actions or omissions of its citizens in Honiara?

Australia was invited to come to the Solomon Islands. The first invitation had been extended by the than Prime Minister, the late Bart Ulufa’alu in 2000. But Australia had refused to intervene.

The RAMSI intervention was approved by the Solomon Islands Parliament in 2003. There is an element here, that although Australia and the participating Pacific countries came by invitation, there was little option for Solomon Islands leaders. The terms of the intervention were more or less on a take it or leave it basis, and the country was in crisis.

Unlike the Enhanced Cooperation Programme intervention in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands had neither the constitution, nor the political will, to question the terms of the intervention. In Papua New Guinea, although the Government accepted the terms of the Enhanced Cooperation Programme, elements in the police and a provincial governor objected to the level of Australia police involvement, and the Australian immunity from Papua New Guinea law. The matter went to the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court. The immunity was found unconstitutional.

The intervention by Australia had been argued as being in Australian interests. It was needed to satisfy Australia’s longer term security and defense needs. In essence the argument was it is cheaper to intervene now, than to let things go really bad, and then pay a lot more. The intervention was costed-out,  but did not address the costs of what happened when things go wrong

There are at least three ways of looking at this;

1.         What happened in Honiara was really part of the fall-out of an uncompleted armed conflict or civil war. In which case it is difficult to apportion moral responsibility to the intervening peacekeepers. Australia should not have to pay.

2.         Australia was really projecting itself into the region for its own security, as part of a heightened policy of regional intervention East Timor 2000,   9/11, Papua New Guinea ECP1, and failed ECP2, 2003 Solomon Islands. On this view if a country goes in to a neighbor as part of its own security policy objective, and it falls into error, then there is an obligation to pay the costs, or some of the costs of the error. Australia should pay.

3.         The Solomon Islands went through an armed conflict which was virtually a civil war for 5 years as a result of several unresolved historical conflicts and dysfunctionalities. Much of the responsibility for this unfortunate history rests with Britain, Australia, France and Germany. More recently, Japan, the Peoples Republic of China, Malaysia, and the Republic of China (Taiwan) in part, have been responsible, with Solomon Island leaders, for the indiscriminate exploitation of the Solomon Islands natural resources. On this view, there is a case for spreading the burden of the moral obligation amongst a group of countries associated with the causes of, or the background to, the April 2006 riot in Honiara. A club of nations under the umbrella arrangement of Friends of the Solomon Islands associated with the background to the riots could pay.

What should the Government of the Solomon Islands do?

1.         Immediately pass an Act that says the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 did not apply to the April 2006 Riot.

2.          1st alternative: enact a statute that allows all claims relating to the April 2006 Riot to be proved before a special tribunal and paid, either in Treasury bonds against which they can raise a bank loan to rebuild damaged properties, or over a 7 to15 year period, so as not to place too heavy a burden on the Treasury in paying out the claims. Note: section 8 of the Constitution above. This still would allow the High Court to intervene. The High Court is most likely to uphold claims for reasonable compensation and damages. But this course of action would at least get the High Court to address the meaning of the words: having due regard to all the relevant circumstances in section 8(1)(c)(i) of the Constitution. This option may not be to the liking of insurance companies who may have paid out on policies, and by the right of subrogation in the policies, are waiting for this Commission to release its report, before lodging their writs. They would most likely challenge to protect the rights of their shareholders, arguing any deferment is most unjust to them. The difficulty will be the predominance of property-rights in modern legal culture, and the conservatism (pro-property) of judicial thought.   

2nd alternative: amend the Constitution to retrospectively take away the rights of foreigners in actions against the government under section 8 for amounts in excess of One million Solomon Island dollars (SBD $1,000,000). Give them limited rights before a tribunal, that may spread damage payments over a period up to15 years, payments can only be made for the replacements of assets loss, and prevent the damages cash being taken out of the Solomon Islands; that is, it can only be used to rebuild the asset lost on the same site, or a site approved by the tribunal. This course of action has risk. It cannot be done quickly because of the need to comply with the procedures for changing entrenched provisions of the Constitution. It may be politically difficult to get the necessary majorities on the floor of Parliament. It could offend existing international treaty and convention commitments and may too, bring an international out-cry, or at the very least could be viewed negatively by overseas investors.

3rd alternative: leave the law, as it is, and seek Australia’s assistance, or the international donor community to assist, at least in part, to pay for the damage

The nature appropriateness effectiveness adequacy of existing arrangements affecting repetition of incidents events & activities during the  April 2006 Civil Unrest

We have requested, through the Department of Foreign Affairs on the 3rd of July 2007, that the Government of Singapore provide a senior officer to assist the Commission in evaluating existing anti-riot arrangements. No written response has been received to this request.


 

APPENDICES

APPENDIX 1 :                 WAIVER OF IMMUNITY  BY GOVERNMENT OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX  2 :        EMAIL FROM MICK SHANNON  

 

APPENDIX 3:                 LIST OF SOLOMON ISLAND PASSPORTS ISSUED


List of Solomon Island Passports supplied to the Commission by the SIPF

1. Miss Mei Zhen Hui (20) 039708
2. Mstr Run Shen Zhen (21) 039706
3. Mr. Guo Quing Zhen (18) 039712
4. Mrs. Pei Xian Li (19) 039710
5. Mr. Jian Liu Xing (28 ) 039772
6. Miss. Jian Miao Miao (29) 039774
7. Mr. Jian Bao Jin (27) 039777
8. Mr, Cu Shen Song (31) 039832
9. Mr. Huan Xin Da (30) 039769
10. Mrs. Jiang Rong Suan (26) 039704
11. Mr. Zhou Zhuang Wei (9) 39873
12. Mr. Qing Yang Jian (22) 038934
13. Mrs. Chen Liming (14) 039595
14. Mr. Chen Guang Yao (13) 039593
15 Mr. Yu Wen Can (24) 039645

16 Miss Zheng Huin Xia (7) 039886

 

 


 

 

APPENDIX 4:                                          COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ACT

 

Commissions of Inquiry Act:  Need to update the Commission of Inquiries Act

 

  1. The selection of commissioners  There is probably a need to legislatively structure the way in which commissioners are selected. Currently, the selection of commissioners is a matter for the Prime Minister, who may, or may not, consult cabinet, colleagues, or advisers. We are not suggesting that should change. Commissions of Inquiry are part of the executive arm, and armory of government, although they are subject to Administrative Law, and the oversight of the judges of the High Court through the enforcement of the rules of natural justice and the  ultra vires  rule (only acting within the powers under the Terms of Reference, and the Commission of Inquiry Act). However, socially and politically, the world has progressed in complexity from the past in which  the choice of a commissioner was somewhat limited to a retired male judge, or lawyer, of a conservative disposition. Gender balance are far more important these days, than they were in the early 20th century. Issues in the 21st century are much more complex. Technology, science, social science, commerce, business and accounting inform much of modern daily life. The Solomon Islands is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial nation, rich in natural resources, with a dynamic population. Objectively, it has a promising future, and must begin to prepare itself for being modern, progressive, and rich. But it faces the struggle of integrating ancient custom with modern science, technology, world economy, and a host of gender, religious, social and political views. In addition, there are the pressures that create the need for commissions of inquiry. The need is often driven by a divisive issue: a sore-point. There is generally a complex crisis of some sort, the Prime Minister and cabinet may come under pressure politically, technologically, socially, economically, or diplomatically. Executive resources maybe strained, by a lack of information, and/or by the time that Cabinet can allocate to deliberation, or because of the divisive nature of otherwise unexplored or ill-considered issues. These, again generally, are not such that they can be dealt with at one, or several, meetings of cabinet, because of the need for detailed investigation, sifting, reflection and reporting, in such a manner as to allow the executive arm of government to inform itself publicly, and properly. Cabinet is often faced with a crisis: the Prime Minister decides to implement an inquiry. Generally there is a need to act quickly and decisively. In addition, in a small country, there may not be persons with necessary technical expertise, or previous experience, as commissioners. One of the tasks that a Prime Minister and cabinet, in these circumstances, may face, which is not an issue in larger states with a history of well-developed public administration, is the need to develop expertise in-country: capacity-building. This is a transitory matter, because once there has been a series of successful commissions, the expertise is established. We suggest that perhaps it is better to have some legislative guidance on selecting and appointing commissioners so as to ease the decision on appointments, that otherwise maybe constrained by pressure at the time, at least to try and settle some of the broader issues, and bring the Act into the 21st Century. What follows suggests some of the issues that may need to be addressed.

 

  1. Numbers of Commissioners: It is probably better to use odd-numbers when deciding how many commissioners, should be appointed to a commission. There may be a case for 2 commissioners in some select circumstances. 4 commissioners are less easy to justify.   1 or 3 may be preferable. Of course Commissions of Inquiry are notoriously expensive, and that in itself deliberates against 4 or 5 commissioners, and so the preference probably should be for 1, or 3 commissioners. The idea of giving the Chair a deliberative and casting vote is not recommended as it may be too divisive, and artificial. In multi-commissioner inquiries, the values of mutual respect and comity tend to operate. The practice is to either to talk-issues-out and arrive at a consensus view, or to encourage dissents. After all, the role of the inquiry is to provide the Prime Minister with a view, or views of the facts in issue. Recommendations, if mandated are for the consideration of executive government, and maybe, the legislative arm. There is no finality about a report of commission of inquiry, as it is merely an executive tool, for finding facts, and seeking opinions as to recommendations. Hence, the idea of a deliberative and a casting vote in the Chair to break an otherwise deadlocked set of views, is somewhat artificial.  It is probably a better outcome to allow dissenting views in reports, so that executive government can see the range of issues, and the range of opinions. In the end, it is not commissioners who make decisions, policies, or laws. They only make recommendations. In a constitutional and liberal multi-party democracy such as the Solomon Islands, the decisions are the responsibility of elected representatives, the executive, and legislative arms of government.

 

  1. Gender-bias         Gender balance in Melanesia is a difficult matter because of the sophisticated relationships between men and women in different customs. The appearance of the power-balance may not necessarily reflect the true dynamics of gender relations. That being said, in terms of the modern democracy we live in, women seem to have hit the “glass-ceiling”. They are severely under-represented in public institutions. That is quite unconstitutional and applies across the board in public office. The law as it applies to commissions of inquiries, needs to be proactive in ensuring gender balance in the choice of commissioners. It is simply untrue to argue there are no properly qualified women in Melanesia to hold office as commissioners.

 

  1. Women’s representation  With odd-numbers, one sex will always predominate, but it is better than a commission of all males, although there maybe exceptional circumstances were an all female commission may be appropriate. Certainly we need to move to a selection process for commissioners that is proactive in promoting women’s representation.

 

  1.  Perceived bias.   The Commission had to deal with a specific situation in which an employee of a contractor with the Government, supplying services to the Commission, was named in an affidavit as being a person who in early 2006 was involved, innocently in the opinion of the Commission, in attempting to entice a politician from one Camp to another Camp.

 

As soon as the facts became available to the Commission the Commission took steps to have the person disassociated with the work of the Commission.

There is a need to either specify in statute, or confine or restrict the effect of judge-made law on the law of bias as it applies to Commissions of Inquiry.

 

Ultimately, the reason for this type of recommendation, is that Commissions of Inquiry are very expensive and time-consuming, and once they have been launched, because they are mere inquiries, and nothing more, they should not be quashed, or derailed judicially, without real, as distinct from fanciful, cause.

 

The modern law as it has developed in the United Kingdom, and increasingly affected by European Law, from the Strasburg European Court of Human Rights, is confused see Wade & Forsyth Administrative Law  9th ed, OUP, Oxford, 2204 ch 13 “The Rule Against Bias” attached at Appendix 4 (A).

 

Within that core of legal development it is possible to identify a line of conservative judicial thinking that applies the law of perceived bias in a selective manner to inhibit liberal or progressive thinking, in the name of  “impartiality”.

 

Against this, there is at least one Canadian case, Re Copeland and MacDonald (1978) 88 DLR (3rd) 724 that says a mere investigation by a Royal Commission is not subject to the rule against bias. To say the least, if the only protection commissioners, in the Solomon Islands, have, is a decision of a Canadian court, there is a need to minimize risks of inappropriate judicial intervention, and protect the taxpayer from unnecessary delay and the expense of litigation.

 

Persons who are affected adversely by an inquiry, may take the view they have little option but to delay, or derail the inquiry by judicial intervention. If the cost of an adverse finding is high enough, that may justify importing expensive legal advice and senior counsel into the Solomon Islands, and because the law of bias is complicated, the chances of successfully challenging on bias, may be quite good.

 

  1. Need for reform    The need for reform is particularly so if there is any danger in the Solomon Islands of applying strict rules of perceived bias. The Solomon Islands is a small country. Everyone knows everyone, and not infrequently they are related by blood, language, or ethnicity. Bias is a readily available tool to attack the messenger/ball-carrier, rather than the message, or the ball. Individuals align this way one year, and another way in later years. Individuals may publish or promote one type of view when they are younger, and then change their views in later years. This type of branding a person by their life-history should  generally be avoided. Perceptions that justice must be done and must be seen to be done depend upon an artificial objectivity. Either the objectivity of the judges themselves: does the judge see a perception of bias. Or, the objectivity of the “ordinary person”: the “Man on the Clapham Omnibus”. It goes without saying that in a multi-ethnic society that test has doubtful validity. 

 

  1. Re Copeland and MacDonald needs to be examined by those in authority, and if necessary, codified.

 

  1. Otherwise, the first issue that needs to be addressed is whether or not commissioners are judicial decision-makers, because the law applies different standards to judges, and lesser tribunals of an administrative or investigatory nature. In our opinion, the law should state clearly that commissioners in an inquiry are not judicial-decision-makers. This is so because, frequently commissioners may not be even lawyers; they are persons chosen by the executive for their expertise, experience, or wisdom to make an inquiry. It would be wise to set out the rules that lay commissioners have to follow, in simple non-technical legal language, again, so that commissioners do not have to continually second-guess judges. The law should make clear that commissioners are tasked by the executive, to perform an executive function, in accordance with the statute that empowers them, and empowers their appointment.

 

  1. The rules of natural justice that apply to commissioners should be set-out in a non-technical, jargon-free language, so as to ensure the basic protection of witnesses and those affected by an inquiry, and meet constitutional compliance. But commissioners should not have to second-guess the Judges of the High Court on the way in which the rules maybe applied.

 

  1. A simple and inexpensive method going some way to protect the rights of those affected in an inquiry, is to include in an appendix to any report, a limited summary (say 600 to 900 words at most), of their case, in their own words, if they are of the view they have been prejudiced. In some tribunals it is routine to forward adverse findings to affected parties, and publish the response. Section 13 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act protects the reputation of affected persons from damage by other witnesses, but there is also a need to have adverse findings put to those affected, generally.

 

  1. Two examples of the difficulties may help: in Hockstra v Lord Advocate [2201] 1AC 216 [PC], a Scots judge had a decision quashed because of possible bias, in a case involving the application of the European Human Rights Convention.  The judge previously in his life published a newspaper article that painted a vivid but negative picture of the Convention’s impact on the law, and that in the view of the Privy Council, created a legitimate apprehension in the defendants that he would not act impartially in the protection of their Convention rights. Professors Wade and Forsyth comment “Judicial criticism of the law must in the future be expressed in measured and restrained language”.

 

One can imagine the difficulties in an inquiry into the collapse of a particular type of bridge, encountered by a commissioner who was an engineer, who had published in earlier life a criticism of that type of bridge construction. If the engineer was an authority on bridge design and construction, why should not the Prime Minister select him/her to sit as a commissioner to conduct an inquiry into a bridge collapse?

 

The second case is R v Bow Street Magistrates ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No2)  Pinochet was the subject of an extradition warrant by a Spanish magistrate for crimes against humanity, committed against Spanish citizens in Chile, during the aftermath of the coupe in 1973, lead by Pinochet, against the Allende government. Thousands of people in Chile at that time were murdered, tortured, or “disappeared”. The case was controversial because, at the time of the extradition proceedings, the former United Kingdom, Conservative Party Prime Minister, Dame Margaret Thatcher, openly supported Pinochet in his attempt to evade extradition to Spain. That in itself was most likely a reflection of conservative thinking in Chile and the United Kingdom. Professors Wade and Forthsyth say:

 

 “in a prominent case, the House of Lords has affirmed that the principle of automatic disqualification (for perceived bias)  in fact extends beyond pecuniary and proprietary interests. It applies equally where the judge is himself a party or has a relevant interest in the subject matter of the litigation, even if he has no financial interest in its outcome. The case concerned an appeal before the House of Lords in which the Crown Prosecution Service sought to overturn the quashing by the Divisional Court of extradition warrants made against a former head of state. Amnesty International (AI) were given leave to intervene in the proceedings before the House of Lords. Unknown to the representatives of the former head of state at the time, one of the law lords was in fact an (unpaid) director and chairperson of Amnesty International Charity Ltd, (AICL) a company under the control of AI which was formed to carry out the charitable parts of Amnesty International’s activities. The law lord, who did not disclose his links with AI, had no financial interest in the outcome and was not a party to the proceedings, but the ‘substance of the matter is that AI and AICL are all various parts of an entity or movement working in different fields towards the same goals’. This was enough automatically to disqualify the law lord; and the matter was reheard before a differently constituted Appeal Committee. The circumstances of this case were most unusual; it is difficult to see what other non-pecuniary interests will suffice other than the obvious one where the judge is  a party. But the case serves to underline the reach, even into the House of Lords, of the rule against bias; and it has, moreover, focused attention on questions of judicial propriety”.

 

  1. There is a danger that these strict rules that apply to judges, may cross-over to lesser tribunals in general, and commissions of inquiry in particular. After all, if a commission of inquiry is about to make recommendations that threaten cashed-up vested interests, then it may generally worthwhile to invest in a legal challenge that threatens the existence of the inquiry. While the law itself maybe gleaned from the cases, the method of its application is generally not so readily ascertainable. The application may be confined to the informal but powerful social setting of senior judges. It may take place in the chambers, back rooms of court-houses and otherwise in the collegiate discussions of judges. And it may have a real, and damaging effect on the executive and the country . If perceived bias is shown in a judicial officer, there is a breach of the rules of natural justice, it goes to jurisdiction, the proceedings are subjected to certiorari, and quashed. There is a waste of taxpayer’s funds. The effect of the ephemeral nature of the law of perceived bias, is a bias in favour of conservatism, vested interests, and big-business. The risk that these rules maybe extended beyond the judges, and affect commissioners is moderate.

 

  1. As examples:  persons with  life experience in religion, who have published or advocated caution with stem-cell research, or a life-experience in women’s rights or who has published or advocated on abortion, unionists, or labour advocates with life-experiences in opposing big-business, advocates for minority rights.

 

  1. The proper way of dealing with this type of anomaly, where the subject-matter of the Inquiry is controversial, is to appoint more than one commissioner, and to vary the life-experiences.

 

  1. Why? The executive should be able to appoint commissioners of its choice. It should not have to second-guess what the judges may be thinking when appointments are made. The law and the issues need to be clarified, so that public funds are not wasted, by having very expensive inquiries, quashed judicially.

 

  1. Quashing an inquiry is too blunt and instrument. If there is a need for judicial intervention to protect individual rights, that intervention should be limited. Appropriate orders to commissioners may be crafted to include in their reports matters that protect individuals from injustices.

 

  1. Typical of the type of reasoning in the articulation of perceived bias, is the view that a judicial-officer who has a critical life-experience, or belongs on the Left, may be perceived as biased. The late Lionel Murphy, judge of the Australian High Court, was viewed in this manner, and there are those who are of the opinion he was eventually driven to his death, by harassment because of his life-experiences. While Australia may have progressed past that type antagonism, in the geographic extremities of the wider legal system, injustices may yet have life, and be exploited by lawyers, on behalf of clients, who otherwise, may not have a case.

 

  1.  The unarticulated premise is that big-business, capital, and their supporters in bureaucracy would be uncomfortable with the knowledge that the judicial officer has a demonstrated, or relatively easy to demonstrate to conservative judges, life-experience. The inferences from those primary facts are readily drawn by those with differing life-experiences.

 

  1. This line of thought is applied selectively. It is not applied to affect judicial officers with conservative, pro-business, bureaucratic experiences. 

 

  1. Prohibition on use of evidence in an Inquiry being used in other proceedings. There is no provision in the Commissions of Inquiry Act that protects persons who have given statements, or offered evidence in an Inquiry, against the use of those statements/evidence in either civil or criminal proceedings. There is such a provision in the Papua New Guinea Commission of Inquiry Act. A protection of this nature gives some comfort to witnesses that the Inquiry transcript cannot be annexed to an affidavit in a civil matter, to be used in criminal proceedings. The purpose of an Inquiry is to ascertain facts in an Inquiry instigated by the Chief Executive of state, the Prime Minister, it is not a short-cut to make civil litigation cheaper, or the lives of prosecutors easier. While the standard of evidence in a commission of inquiry findings must vary with the seriousness of the allegations that affect persons, commissions of inquiry are not criminal or civil courts. They are not bound by strict rules of evidence, to prove their findings beyond reasonable doubt, or even on the balance of probabilities. The standard of evidence or degree of probability of a finding in an inquiry is commensurate with the subject-matter. Serious allegations need to be shown with a serious preponderance of probability. But other matters may be concluded on an otherwise satisfactory basis, more akin to the standard that businesses, commerce and government apply to their routine decision-making.

 

  1. Section 13  Protection of character and reputation: There is a need for a form to be drafted to inform persons who are adversely affected by statements offered to a commission.

 

  1.  Section 11 (1)  Powers to summons witnesses. It is better that the powers of the High Court are to be included in the Commission of Inquiries Act in full-and not merely referred to.

 

  1. Section 15 (1)  Immunity.  Protection for Magistrates under section 70 of the Magistrates Courts Act to be included in the Commission of Inquiry Act in full and not merely referred to. Immunity provisions for Commissioners against costs orders to be made watertight. The Act should say clearly that unless fraud or dishonesty is found in a commissioner, the government will bear the costs. Reasons: Not all commissioners are lawyers and may not understand the elasticity of the concept of “jurisdiction”. There have been rulings of the Privy Council that impose costs upon tribunals, in person, in cases were there has been a breach of jurisdiction. In fact it is quite easy for a non-lawyer, or a person with mundane legal advice to get into trouble over jurisdiction. It is not hard to breach the complex rules of ultra vires, (exceeding powers), or the rules of natural justice. Good legal advice in the Solomon Islands is not easy to get. The government has a shortage of qualified and experienced lawyers. A commission may not have access to sound legal advice. Otherwise, the effect of costs may hang as a “Sword of Damocles” over the heads of commissioners.

 

  1. Obstructing the Commission.  Create “summary offences”- minor fine etc. for “obstructing” the Commission. Information at the sole ‘subjective” discretion of the Secretary into a Magistrates Court.

 

  1. Delay.  Witnesses  being summoned to appear on a date and time, and then not turning up means a Commission and lawyers sit around and waste taxpayers money. Fines for delay should be calculated on the basis of liquidated damages, or akin to demurrage: they should have a relationship to the actual cost to the taxpayer of the delay which are somewhere between $250 to $750 per hour. Reasons: Firstly, Commissions of Inquiry are executive tools, empowered by Act of Parliament, and initiated by the Prime Minister.  Secondly,  to deter general “trouble makers” who delay, obstruct, disrupt, show disrespect to a Commission.

 

  1. Contempt.             The general powers of contempt in the face of the tribunal (offensive language/behaviour, violence, wilful obstruction etc), in courts of record should be afforded to commissioners, but trials should be before a judge on prosecution by the DPP.

 

  1. Public Service discipline.  Public officials are a particular problem. In addition to the summary offences trialed before a magistrate, there is a need to create serious public service discipline infringement for officers who “white-ant”, delay, or obstruct, either deliberately, or through inertia and laziness. Similar provisions should apply to members of the disciplined forces.

 

  1. Process.  Notice of discipline infringement at the “subjective” discretion of the Commission Secretary; notice given to a Public Service Commission Inspector/Commander of a disciplined force. Serious allegation: suspension without pay pending investigation and proceeding by PSC/Commander. Minor or less serious allegations; -suspension on pay .

Penalties:

-reprimand or admonishment

-fine commensurate with the costs to the Commission (of delay etc)

-dismissal from office

 

There is a need for a permanent secretariat to be established under the Commissions of Inquiry Act in the Prime Ministers Department. This is particularly so to the extent that government may adopt Inquiries as an instrument of policy. It would be necessary to task officials to develop a policy frame work for the establishment of a secretariat. In particular, these officials need to address budgeting and financial support for future commissions.

 

 

Appendix 4 (A):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX  6          :               RIOT (DAMAGES) ACT 1886

 

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX  7 :    NATIONAL DISASTER COUNCIL REPORT

 

NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT OFFICE

MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

 

INITIAL REPORT ON DAMAGES TO BUSINESS HOUSES AND PROPERTIES IN HONIARA DURING THE RIOTS OF APRIL 18TH AND 19TH 2006

 

Compiled by: The National Disaster Management Office

Vavaya Ridge

Honiara

Introduction

Following on from the situation of the recent past, the NDMO has been heavily involved in various activities some of which are being highlighted in this presentation. The NDMO being the secretariat to the NDC undertook the following fact finding assessments in its attempt to make members of the NDC who are also executive heads of govt. ministries aware of the possible costs and impact of the recent riots. As members of the NDC, recommendations stated in various parts of this report must not be laid to rest there, it remains the responsibility of line ministries to take them forward through the recovery process.

Actions taken by the NDMO

The NDMO has undertaken the following actions, following the directive issued by the NDC on 19 April:

· Held discussions with Telekom, SIEA, Department of Infrastructure, Department of Lands, Department of Finance, Chinese Association and SI Chamber of Commerce and Industry

· Undertook planning and liaison activities with Solomon Island Red Cross on the issue of homeless and displaced Chinese people, and assisted with completing the repatriation process for them

· Sent letters to key agencies requesting information

· Designed questionnaires as follows:

· Urban Infrastructure Questionnaire - to assess infrastructural damage and identify steps necessary for reconstruction

· Engineering Questionnaire - to assess damage to buildings, and identify demolition and reconstruction needs

· Business Needs Questionnaire - to assess the impact on businesses in both the immediate and long term contexts

· Initiated an engineering assessment in China Town with Department of Infrastructure

· Contributed to a planning and mapping survey by Department of Lands, which will result in a map of all damaged buildings with links to land ownership details

· Conducted visual inspections of China Town, New China Town and other areas to assess further possible impacts.

· Met with the NDC Chair to provide a progress report, and to discuss procedures for interdepartmental coordination and possible further needs and ways forward.

Summary of Damage Caused

In accordance with the direction given to it by the NDC, the NDMO has undertaken an initial survey of damage caused by the unrest. The following is a summary of the results, with some approximations due to the difficulties in collecting certain information:

· Buildings burnt down in the China Town area – 57

· Buildings burnt down elsewhere – 17

Details: 4 General Stores in Kukum high way.

3 general Stores inner Kukum

2 general stores in Ranadi area

Video Land building in central market area

5 buildings in the Pacific Hotel and Casino complex

1 private house East Kola Ridge area

1 private house in Auki

· Commercial buildings remaining in the China Town area – 23

· Businesses closed in the central business area following the unrest, due to a combination of physical damage, looting and security concerns - 85

· Businesses open in the central business on Tuesday 25 April – 17

· Businesses open in the central business on Thursday 28 April – around 30

· Businesses open in the China town area on Tuesday 25 April – around 4

· Businesses open in the China town area on Thursday 28 April – around 10

 

Information collected (to date)

1. Solomon Islands Electricity Authority

Estimated losses as follows:

Meters stolen/damaged             - Estimated about 125 meters @ $450     $   56,250

Electrical line damages              - Estimated cost                                     $ 103,757

Receipts collected around the period 17th – 21st of the following months:

                        Jan06   $1,630,803.31

                        Feb06   $1,323,074.76

                        Mar06   $   917,521.87               Averaged - $1,290,466.65

                        Actual collected in April for the same period - $348,544.75

Outstanding power bills for burnt/looted premises          -$153,587

Estimated unbilled monthly for April and onwards

for burnt/looted premises                                 -$442,000

2. Telekom

Telekom have suffered a loss of income amounting to approximately SBD$1m per month and anticipate spending a further SBD$1m in carrying out restoration works.

3. Ministry of Finance & Treasury

As understood, the above dept has been embarking on getting information from its divisions such the Inland Revenue and Customs. The information on the extent of revenue loss to the SIG as the result of the riots is not available to the NDMO.

4. Engineering Assessment – Dept of Works

The report is attached for the information of the NDC. It contains recommendations which the NDC needs to highlight to relevant govt. agencies and line ministries. An estimated cost for the rebuilding is also been indicated in the report.

5. Honiara City Council

The Honiara City Council would be most affected by the riots. Possible revenue loss would be in business licenses, basic rates and other taxes. Again this information is not available to the NDMO.

6. Rove Care-centre Costs

The costs incurred by the SIRC, NGOS, business houses, church groups and government agencies in taking care of the displaced has also not been costed. However, it must be noted that a lot of resources were put into the care centre where the internally displaced were accommodated.

 

INFORMATION ON DISPLACED CHINESE PEOPLE.

With thanks to the RSIP for availing the Rove Police Club to be used as care centre, the Solomon Islands Red Cross and various other local Church organizations, such as Caritas, SDA women’s group, COM, SSEC and many others; needs to be commended for their hard work in providing assistance to the local Chinese population who lost their homes during the riot. The Rove Police club with members of RSIP & PPF provided the safety net which was required by the displaced who had experience fear as they were the target population. Some local Chinese remained at their homes and move into the care centre from time to time during the week.

Repatriation of Evacuees

Repatriation of evacuees took place on different days to different destinations. On 20th April 2006, ten (10) people mostly women and infants went on board the New Zealand Air Force. The New Zealand High Commission gave these requirements as eligible entry:

· Must be Chinese passport holders

· Must have short-term Work Permit in Solomon Islands.

Two went on-board the normal commercial flight IE700 to Australia for Medical assistance whereby arrangements were done prior to this event.

Following this, an arrangement was made by the Chinese Association with the Chinese Embassy based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea to repatriate the evacuees back to China. The majority of the evacuees requested that they be repatriated back to mainland China.

Mr Gao Feng and his third Secretary from the PNG Consular Office –Mr Wang Gang visited the evacuees on 21st Aril 2006.

Four chartered flights were arranged with the Air New Guinea, which saw some 300 evacuees altogether being repatriated back to mainland China via Port Moresby

· Saturday 22nd April 2006 –1 flight (88 passengers)

· Sunday 23rd April 2006 - 2 flights (144 passengers)

· Monday 24th April 2006 –1 flight (63 passengers)

In total 317 evacuees have been repatriated. Others made their own flight arrangements which we have no records.

Those remaining in Honiara who actually registered their names are 64 people. However, it must be noted that a good number of Chinese living in Honiara remained in the homes and did not register.

Problems to be solved

The following appear to be the main problems which will require resolution:

· Disruption of the supply of food and other goods, due to the closure of the businesses which normally sell these items.

· Economic impact of the loss of hundreds of jobs, belonging to those who were employed by businesses which have closed due to the impact of the events which occurred

· Potential conflict between the need to undertake appropriate town planning actions, set standards and identify the best ways to rebuild, against a desire by business owners to re-open as quickly possible

· Possible delays in demolition, if owners do not agree or cannot be located

· Disposal of debris – a proper location for this needs to be found, in view of the extremely limited capacity of the exiting landfill site and the need to find site where any toxic materials which may be present do not leach out and enter the food chain

· Toxic residues in debris – these will need to properly treated during demolition, clean-up and disposal. The residues include products of combustion, residual quantities of domestic and industrial chemicals and asbestos contamination.

· Possible building collapse, where buildings have been damaged but not yet demolished

· Members of the public are exposed to a number of hazards now that China Town is open for public access. The risks are greater where safety barriers have not been erected to prevent ingress to damaged and dangerous structures.

· There is limited time to resolve town planning issues as rebuilding action has now been initiated in several cases, and more can be expected in the next few days.

· Some government agencies such as RSIP may have incurred costs from items such as overtimes and repairs which may lead to later budget over-runs.

· Possible repatriation of Solomon Island families who have lost their livelihoods in the smoke of 18th and 19th April 2006. A survey is currently been undertaken to find out the total population who may be requiring assistance.

 

Recommended NDC Actions

· Review all actions currently being taken by line ministries to address problems caused by these events, to ensure that activities are coordinated and that all needs are being addressed.

· Discuss steps necessary to put a social safety net in place for families which may be suffering financially or emotionally as a result of this event. Solomon Island families were impacted, what help is SIG prepared to give? Repatriation?

· Provide input to town planning processes to ensure future risks are minimized. Town and Country Board must be encouraged to participate in the rebuilding of China Town. It is imperative that Honiara City planning dept take the lead in the “re-facing” of China Town so that it is more “people friendly”.

· Consider the need to strengthen existing conflict resolution mechanisms to minimize the possibility of similar events occurring on future occasions

· Review all available information to determine if further information collection is required and if any other urgent action may be needed.

· Lands and Survey Division to look at current land leases within China Town.

Whilst the redevelopment of China Town will remain the role of Honiara City Council and the developers with the approval of the Honiara Town & Country planning board it is imperative that the National Disaster Council plays the role of “watch dog” and provide support/advise where it can. Afteral it is in the interest of the NDC that the outcome of the recovery programme will provide a safer, more resilient, people friendly Honiara city.

Attachment:

Engineering Assessment report by: Mr. Ambrose Kirei

Ministry of Infrastructure Development

Honiara

Report end//

 

__________________________

Loti Yates

Director, National Disaster Management Office

Dept of Home Affairs

Honiara

 

ENGINEERING ASSESSMENT OF BUILDINGS DAMAGED AND DESTROYED BY FIRE

 

LOCATION: CHINATOWN AND OPPOSITE CENTRAL MARKET (HONIARA)

 

ASSESSED BY: Ambrose F Kirei (Chief Civil Engineer/MID) – Assessment Team leader

James H Nonone (Senior Civil Engineer/MID)

Ishmael Alulu (Senior Civil Engineer/ MID)

SUBMITTED TO: The Technical Advisor

National Disaster Management Office

Department of Home Affairs

ASSESSMENT

1.0 Summary of Findings

Following the events of 18-19 April 2006, a request was received to carry out an assessment on all those buildings which were burnt down (during the riots in Honiara), from an engineering point of view.

The table 1.1 below gives a summary of the buildings assessed. The assessment did not include those buildings that were unaffected by fire.

Table 1.1 – Summary of assessed buildings.

 

Location Type of Bldg Rebuilding Estimates

Structural Assessment

China Town (next to Tom and sons building) Single storey building mainly block work, housing 3 shopping rooms 2,160,000.00

Block work may be reused pending TCPB requirement
China Town ( MP Kwan building) Double storey building, bottom supermarket, general merchant shop top residence. 7,452,000.00 Slab may be reused, complete removal of shear walls is compulsory.
China Town (next MP Kwan Bldg) Single storey 18 x 9m bldg, concrete block building 907,200.00 Existing block works and shear walls may be reused, pending TCPB and engineers decisions.
China Town at the back yard of building 3 Single storey 14.5 x 5m Concrete block building 203,000.00 Complete removal of remains of burned building including old colonial columns
China Town, back yard of building 3 Double storey, 20 x 10 build adjacent to a single storey 9 x 13m residence. Bottom, reinforced block work, top floor timber frame 144,700.00 Complete removal of block works seems necessary otherwise must be proven satisfactory by an experience engineer.
China Town Single storey, build on old colonial 250 x 250 x 800mm reinforce conc. Posts. Fully timber framing. 940,800.00 Complete removal of burned down debris from site for reconstruction.
China town (Wings Company) Single storey 10 x 14m timber frame building, shed for storing dry cocoa beans   Complete demolishing is compulsory
China town back yard of 7 6 x 11m wet bean dryer   Complete demolishing is compulsory
China town back yard of 8 11 x 6m single storey residential building   Removal of debris for reconstruction is necessary
China Town 16 x 24m single storey commercial building 1,075,200.00 Complete removal of any existing concrete blocks on site is important
China Town opposite Chun Wah school 24 x 21 double storey building, reinforced concrete slabs and blocks at the bottom and timber framing for top 2,822,400.00 Concrete blocks and slabs may be reused pending TCPBs’ approval
China Town 24 x 8m single storey building, timber structure building on old colonial 250 x 250 x 600mm reinforced conc. column 705,600.00 Removal of any remaining concrete blocks after fire is necessary.
China Town 7.5 x 19m two storey building, main frame is steel structure, reinforced concrete blocks slab both for bottom and top. Top level, timber wall frame 798,000.00 Reuse of existing blocks is not recommended for re-use unless an approval is obtained from an engineer.
China Town 30 x 8 double storey building, reinforced concrete slabs and blocks, top level is build of timber. 2,116,800.00 Demolishing deemed necessary
China Town 5 x 34m 2 storey building, reinforced concrete blocks and slabs for bottom level, timber frame for top level 996,800.00 Demolishing deemed compulsory unless verified by an engineer.
China Town 9 x 44m commercial building housing a motel and shop. Bottom floor, reinforced concrete slabs and blocks, top floor timber frame. 2,217,600.00 Demolishing of shear wall is absolutely compulsory. However, slab can be reused in any future reconstruction
Chengs Building China Town 18 x 16m. Main frame is structural steel with reinforced concrete blocks and slabs 1,864,800.00 Demolishing is compulsory
China Town 20 x 18m commercial build on colonial 250 x 250 x800mm column 1,008,000.00 Clearing of debris from site is necessary.
Chinatown, XJ6 Opposite QQQ Single floor concrete slab and timber framed structure (Shop, residence, storage)

(16 x 22m)

985,600.00 New building required
Central Chinatown Low cost timber frame structure (10x30 + 6x30m) 1,209,600.00 Demolition of remains required.
Central Chinatown 2-storey concrete blockwork structure accommodating shop, storage, residence (16mx25m) 2,240,000.00 Require full demolition
Central Chinatown 16mx37m timber framed structure c/w steel pipe posts accommodating shop, stores, residence 2,192,400.00 Recommended for demolition and complete removal of wreckage
Central Chinatown 2-storey steel pipe columns, raised walls, concrete beams 1,657,000.00 Removal of debris, posts cannot be reused, slab may be reused.
Chinatown, general store and hot bread shop. Raised floor slab single storey of concrete blockwork walls 1,562,400.00 Walls and floor slab may be reused pending rebuilding requirements – demolition recommended for better future structure.
Chinatown block 34 2x2-storeys, 1xsingle storey accommodating shop, storage, residence and garage 6,423,200.00 Demolition compulsory
Chinatown, opposite showtime General store, residence and storage 1,344,000.00 4 buildings: remains only with slab, posts and columns. Demolition compulsory.
Block 27, old Chinatown Timber framed structure front commercial (15x22m), and 1x2-storey of lower blockwork and upper timber structure (14x15m) 1,512,000.00 Require demolition, heat effect very severe
Building no.28, central Chinatown Timber frame on colonial short concrete posts (21x27m) 1,344,000.00 Debris removal only
Chinatown, riverside, block no.17 2-storey steel framing, with full height block work wall 2,016,000.00 Steel frame removal compulsory, full demolition if no further details (as-built drawings) cannot be inspected
New world, Chinatown block 28 2-storey top timber frame with lower concrete blockwork walls (8x27m) – residential and commercial 1,209,600.00 Demolition deemed compulsory
Chinatown, next to Showtime 1 commercial building (21x32m) timber frame on 600mm raised floor system and 1 residential 2-storey building timber framed (8x10m) 2,105,600.00 Demolition compulsory
Chinatown 1x2-storey of top timber structure with lower concrete block works (20x6m), and 1xsingle storey of timber structure (20x6m) 1,00,000.00 Blockwork walls on commercial building seems re-usable, residential require complete removal or demolition.
Chinatown Single storey timber framing (shop) 20x4m, 2-storey with lower blockwork and top timber framing 672,000.00 Demolition required for both buildings
Chinatown, building before old single lane bailey bridge Single storey timber roof framing with block work walls accommodating, shop, stores, residence and garage (34x10m) 952,000.00 Only r/c slab could be re-used, walls need removal
West China town, corner old main road and Chinatown one-way (Showtime Building) 2-storey, steel framing with lower concrete block work walls (31x37m) 6,423,200.00 Structural integrity undermined by fire, most structural members out of alignment – require complete demolition or removal.
West Chinatown 2-storey of top steel framing, bottom blockwork (24x10m) 672,000.00 Demolition compulsory – structurally not sound
Shop 25 Chinatown 1no. commercial, timber framing on colonial posts, and 1no. residential of rc columns with timber framing 1,148,000.00 Complete destruction, only requires removal of debris with proper safety procedures in mind.
Chinatown next to Coronation School (Fangs) 2x2-storey and 1x single storey building (mainly block work and timber) 723,800.00 Floor slab, blockwork walls and metal window frames remained. Extend of heat effect on walls lower compared to others of similar construction that were burned down.
Opposite Central Market 2-storey 32x14m and warehouse 32x11m (mainly steel frame and bock work) 3,494,400.00 High risk for 2-storey collapse, demolition compulsory.
China Town 20 x 6m residential building with reinforced concrete block wall, beams and slabs, timber frame structure for top level 672,000.00 Reuse of existing concrete structure is optional pending TCPB approval.
China Town 21 x 21 single storey building raised to 800mm above ground level on an 250 x 250 colonial column posts 1,562,400.00 Removal of debris and remaining concrete blocks from site is necessary.
Chinatown, next to Showtime 1 commercial building (21x32m) timber frame on 600mm raised floor system and 1 residential 2-storey building timber framed (8x10m) 2,105,600.00 Demolition compulsory

 

2.0 Comments on Rebuilding Estimates

The estimates given in table 1.1 above do not refer to the cost or the value of the properties damaged or destroyed. The costs also do not include loss due to business opportunity, government revenue etc. The above estimates are indicative only of the re-building process. The figures given are gross budgetary estimates for the owners to rebuild with optimum utilization of each land lot, establishing a standard (structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing) commercial class of buildings but without internal fittings (except built-in fixtures).

In terms of budgetary advice, the total rebuilding process should be around SBD$63 million assuming a better local planning scheme especially for Chinatown. The accuracy of this estimate is deemed to be about 20% (plus or minus).

3.0 Comments on Structural Assessment

The main construction materials used or applied in the damaged buildings were timber, concrete and steel.

Steel exposed to high temperatures and then cooled down at its own rate should not be regarded as a material of lesser strength with reference to the type of structures assessed. The problem with the steel frames (following exposure to high temperatures) is that the structural members fall out of alignment which, result in complex behavior as a structural material. Hence, from an engineering point of view, all those remains of structural steel frames must not be reused or be subjected the same loading conditions again. It is recommended that all buildings applying steel frames be demolished.

Most concrete structures in Solomon Islands apply ordinary Portland cement and all concrete mixes are intended for normal tropical applications. Some concrete designs are meant for high temperature exposure. However, the authors have not observed any concrete structure designed for high heat exposure in Solomon Islands. Concrete, while increasing in strength over time, could become fretted (including cracks etc) if exposed to high temperatures such as burning paint, plastic and wood. Pouring water to concrete while very hot could simply cause large cracks. Most buildings applied concrete blocks. If not well reinforced, these blockwalls have lesser strength than before the fire. The only good thing about blockwork walls is that they can be strengthened externally using further concrete or steel bracing and/or framing. Generally, it is recommended that all concrete works be also demolished.

The opinions given in the above table 1.1 were based entirely on the site inspection and on the spot judgment (also supported by the experience of the authors). The best structural assessment should also refer to as-built drawings or at least be based on the approved plans and drawings (if no as-built drawings are available).

Generally, from a structural point of view, it is highly advisable that all remains of building structures be removed. Apply new structures (using timber, concrete, steel and other certified engineering materials).

 

4.0 Environmental Considerations

The following concerns are applicable to the situation in Chinatown and elsewhere in Honiara where buildings were burned down:

1. Airborne dust (chemical ashes)

2. Smell (plastics, paints, glass, wood, metals etc – the main concern is the concentration of pollutants)

3. Water quality of surface run off to surrounding areas, the river Matanikao and possible threat to marine life

4. Dump site management

5. Demolition safety procedures

6. Nuisance to adjacent properties/neighbors

From an engineering point of view the following points are advisable:

a) Demolition and haulage of wreckage to a dump site must be regarded as an urgent and a very critical activity in the interest of the owners of the adjacent properties and the general public in Honiara.

b) Engage engineering supervision of the demolition and disposal of the wreckage and solid wastes.

c) Engagement of a health inspector or an environmental engineer is compulsory in the cleaning up process.

Following demolition and clearance of the wreckage, the following steps may be advisable (if affordable):

1. Import a top soil and spread over the site, then mix and scoop up and dispose off at dump site (this could be carried out either generally over the whole area or individually block by block) – the objective is to reduce the concentration of any harmful substances or chemicals or heavy metals.

2. Investigate founding soil situation as a single study (to minimize cost to individual owners) especially where old buildings were located.

3. Carry out water quality tests on the Matanikao River downstream of the site as well as on the sea water.

4. Carry out detail environmental studies at Ranadi Industrial Area

5. Apply proper management of the dump site

The authors took the privilege on their own to inspect the Ranadi Industrial Estate and the Ranadi dump site. By comparison, the situation in Chinatown is deemed to be not much worse in terms of toxicity levels. This is why a detail environmental study is recommended in step 4 above.

 

End of Report

 

Ambrose Kirei

Honiara

May 2006

 

 

 

Solomon Islands Government

Department of Infrastructure & Development

 

 

 

ASSESSMENT OF BUILDINGS DAMAGED BY FIRE

 

An Engineering Report

June 2006

 

 

 

Pacific Casino Hotel

 

 

 

Prepared for:

Physical Planning Office

Honiara City Council

Honiara Solomon Islands

 

Assessed by:

Ambrose Kirei (CCE/MID)

James H Nonone (SCE/MID)

Ishmael Alulu (SCE/MID)

 

Notes

· The authors have attempted their best to simplify the language used in this report for the benefit of the authorized recipients

· The use of masculine pro-nouns such as he, him, his etc does not imply gender bias. These types of words were applied for easy use of language only

· The opinions given herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Infrastructure & Development – the report shall be deemed to give an independent engineering opinion.

· All queries (if any) shall, in the first instance, be directed to the assessment team leader

 

 

SUMMARY

The assessment on the post-fire situation of the Pacific Casino Hotel building was ambitiously began with the hope that all the required information for an informed analysis would be available. This unfortunately, could not be so hence the authors resorted to base their opinion mostly on the site survey findings, reference to building and engineering codes, reference to published text books and the authors’ own background knowledge and experience in practice.

The most important information which could not be obtained was the set of the pre-fire as-built drawings of the building and the accompanying certificates or records of quality control and assurance during the construction phase of the building. Assumptions were made with respect to both the pre-fire situation and the in-fire exposure condition to estimate the post-fire performance of the building structure. The following were determined:

· Fire damage was more considerable on the upper level floor slab and walls. The lower part of the building was deemed to be considerably unaffected. It was found that the most critical post-fire building part is the floor slab especially that section located to the central part of the hotel. This is so because this part of the structure is the most flexural member – with concrete flexural properties being the first and the most affected in the event of fire exposure.

· The structural integrity of the floor slab was deemed questionable especially to the central part of the building. No pre-fire prerequisite information was available to otherwise support any verification analysis to enable confidence in the post-fire performance of this part of the structure.

· The structural integrity of the upper walls was deemed questionable and the situation is deemed to be very similar to the post-fire situation of the top floor slab. No specific sections of walls were identified to be unaffected by fire in the upper part of the building.

Consequently, the following have been recommended:

(i) Demolish the upper level walls of the building if no restoration or strengthening schemes cannot be provided. This includes the newer construction to the west of the main building. Defects observed such as those identified in Section 2 of the report in fact should have warranted the west wing of the building to be demolished and redone – building should not have been passed even without the effect of the fire.

(ii) Separate the main building into two independent structures because of the lack of confidence in the central part of the building (floor slab fire exposure highest in this part). The area concerned is where the reception (lower level) and the public bar (upper level) were located.

Due care is also recommended where partial demolition is required. The reader is encouraged to thoroughly read through the report proper and refer to the annexes to appreciate the findings of the authors.

All in all, whenever there is doubt on the integrity of a structure, that system must be condemned and therefore, demolition shall become compulsory, if no corrective measures can be applied. Whether or not the set of the building remains is actually structurally sound, the final decision is under the sole jurisdiction of the building regulating authority which, in this case is the Honiara City Council.

 

 

 

PRELIMINARY NOTE

At the time of the report writing, the authors were already aware of differing engineering opinions on post-fire performance of certain building structures following exposure and damage by fire, during the short period of disorder in Honiara in mid April 2006. The opinions given herein were formed from the general consensus of the authors and while we respect the view of others, it is strongly believed that the final line of thinking should be based on three things. Firstly, that it is based on scientific research and systematic acquisition of knowledge on the properties of materials. Secondly, that it is based on the accepted test data on the structural members and their applied material composition and thirdly, that the final view is also influenced by the accepted principles of mechanics of solids.

We owe a lot to those engineers, scientists and legal entities such as Standards Australia, whose hard work and publications we also used to help us produce this report.

It must also be noted that structural assessment of “deemed-to-be-dangerous” buildings, be it due to poor workmanship, non-compliance to regulating authority, public alarm, natural disasters, artificial hazards or fire damage is relatively a new phenomena for Solomon Islands engineers. This report could also be a step forward in advancing the knowledge and skill development in the area of damaged structures assessment in Solomon Islands.

 

 

AF Kirei (B.Eng.Civil – PNG Unitech)

Assessment Team Leader

Honiara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page 1

Summary 2

Preliminary Note 3

Table of Contents 4

SECTION 1 – INTRODUCTORY

1. Introduction 5

2. Background 5

3. Assessment Methodology 5

4. Comments on Methodology of Assessment 6

SECTION 2 – FINDINGS OF THE SITE INSPECTION 6

1. Foundation and Footing System 7

2. Ground Floor Slab 7

3. Lower Walls and Stanchions 7

4. Top Floor Slab (Including Balcony/Verander Cantilever Beams) 8

5. Upper Level Walls and Stanchions 8

6. Steel Framed Roofing System 9

7. Protected Steel Columns 9

8. Summary of Findings 9

SECTION 3 – ENGINEERING ASSESSMENT OF FINDINGS 11

1. Effect of Fire on Concrete 12

2. Effect of Fire on Steel 14

3. As-Built Structure Fire Rating/ Fire Protection System 15

4. Effect of Fire on Building Structural Members 15

5. Theoretical, Experimental and Practical Situations 16

SECTION 4 – FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Summary of Assessments 18

2. Recommendations 19

3. Conclusion 19

Bibliography (List of References) 21

 

ANNEXES (Separate Attachments)

Annex1 – Schematic Plan of Pacific Casino Hotel

Annex 2 – Building Plans of Super Hotel Extension

Annex 3 – MID Laboratory Technician Report

Annex 4 – Random Structural Check of Top Floor Slab

Annex 5 – Graphs extracted from reference text books

 

 

 

SECTION 1 – INTRODUCTORY

1. Introduction

This is an engineering assessment report on the Pacific Casino Hotel building. The building was damaged by fire caused by deliberate torching.

The report is divided into four (4) sections. To quickly view the findings, the reader is directed to draw attention to Table 1 – Summary of findings. The table can be viewed on page _____ of the report. A summary of the assessment is given in page 2 of the report. The main subject of the report is given in Section 3 – Engineering Assessment of Findings.

The objective of the report is to give an independent engineering advice on the post-fire performance of the Pacific Casino Hotel building structure. It is the sole jurisdiction of the building regulating authority (including, may be, the building owner) to make the final decision and as such, any administrative or management decision arising as a result of the findings and recommendations of this report is not the responsibility of the authors.

Where restoration or demolition is implied in this report, the implied corrective measures, its procedures for action and the associated costs are out of the scope of the report and are therefore not included. The report may also imply public administrative and policy lessons – it is up to the authority to specify any lessons learned as a result of this report.

 

2. Background

On the 18th and 19th April 2006, the town of Honiara was in chaos with massive riots characterized by littering of streets, looting of shops and the burning down of vehicles and buildings. It is the buildings that were damaged by fire that is the main concern of Honiara City Council planners. At the end of the 2-day period of lawlessness and disorder, many buildings were either destroyed or damaged by fire.

One of the buildings damaged by fire is the Pacific Casino Hotel located along the Kukum Highway at the seafront. A request was received by the authors to carry out a structural assessment on the damaged building with specific emphasis placed on determining the effects of fire on the buildings structural integrity. The report is therefore specifically concerned with the Pacific Casino Hotel building structure, its structural elements and material of construction.

The site assessment was actually carried out on May 29, 2006 which was already 40days after the building was damaged by fire. Cleaning of the building “skeleton” was already underway and the debris from both the fire and further chippings (removal) of liners was almost complete at the time of the site survey.

 

 

3. Assessment Methodology

In list form, the following procedure was involved in producing this report. This is, in order of occurrence, as follows:

(i) Site inspection of the building remains (material of construction, joint types etc)

(ii) Visual assessment of critical parts of the building (made simultaneously with step (i) above.

(iii) Site findings assessment with reference to approved drawings.

(iv) Site findings assessment with reference to structural codes of design (based on accepted principles of mechanics)

(v) Assessment of findings with reference to accepted science of material properties

(vi) Documentation of findings and recommendations (as contained in this report)

4. Comments on Methodology of Assessment

The site investigation was limited to eye inspection of the building remains only. There are other non-destructive investigation methods possible with special engineering equipment for example, use of hand-held equipment that is “spring-driven” to indicate concrete strength by surface impact. No sampling or coring was carried out for verification of post-fire material residual properties in a laboratory.

Assessment of site findings could not also be fully referenced to either any approved as-built drawings or at least any approved plans and drawings. The authors however, were able to inspect the planned drawings for the construction of the new wings located to the east and west of the main hotel building (see attached schematic plan of the building – Annex 1).

Consequently, due to the aforesaid situation, the report is mainly based on the procedural steps (iv) and (v) listed above with the final opinion further influenced by the experience of the authors in practice (mostly Solomon Islands based).

 

SECTION 2 – FINDINGS OF THE SITE INSPECTION

This section simply presents the findings as a result of the site investigations of 29th May 2006. The following sub-sections deals progressively with each main part of the building.

The main dimensions of building were determined as follows:

Main Hotel Building Length (L1) = 65m

Main Hotel Building Width (B1) = 10m

Main Hotel Building Height (D1) = 8m say

By its dimensions (in engineering terms) the building is classed as small low rise building. Therefore the effect of horizontal external forces may not be that considerable (high probability).

The new wings to the east and west of the main Hotel Building (Annex 2) were constructed in a very similar manner to the main building, with the building length being the main difference.

The main structural materials of construction were:

· Concrete – structurally applied for footings and walls, about 50% composition for structural performance although by quantity, makes up about 80% of building material.

· Steel – structurally applied for performance in most parts of the buildings and where concrete is complementary, steel is deemed to have been applied for serviceability requirements.

· Timber – structurally applied in the roof framing system (All timber members were completely destroyed by fire).

No as-built drawings or key building plan was available therefore, no information regarding fire emergency or fire-spread-prevention response system was known.

1. Foundation and Footing System

It was observed that the upper level of the building was more exposed to fire (high temperatures) than the ground level. The level of exposure was also varying with the majority of the lower level considerably unaffected by fire.

With reference to the drawings provided, the footing of the main building and its adjacent wings are located in a range between 600mm and 1.2m below ground level, providing for quite an amble cover for transmission of heat through ground and structure to the main strip footing. Assuming as-built footing system is similar in arrangement to that indicated by the drawings then the fire had negligible effect on footing system.

Founding soil was deemed to be satisfactory for the superstructure although no specific soil investigation report was available.

 

2. Ground Floor Slab

Site inspection revealed that the ground floor slab was not considerably affected by the fire except may be for conventional and radiating heat transfer at the central part of the building where the reception area or foyer was located. This is evident by the presence and visible condition of the tiles on the ground floor, which were noted to have remained intact. Lack of visible cracks where it was expected to be critical indicated a sound building element in service.

Heat transfer to the floor should not be ruled out because there is evidence of plastic melting at the bottom floor. However, it is the severity (level of heat), the extent (surface area exposed) and duration of exposure to fire which are the main concerns. As-built ground floor is of concrete and assuming the supplied drawings are indicative of the structure, it may be said that the effect of fire on the ground floor slab was negligible.

3. Lower Level Walls and Stanchions

The severity of fire intensity on ground level walls and stanchions was similar to that of ground slab. However, more surfaces of the walls were exposed coupled with longer time (say 20 minutes or more) of direct contact with fire. In the case of the ground floor slab, it was only the surface (top side) that had had any direct contact with fire.

Lower level walls and stanchions have up to three surfaces (sides) having direct exposure to fire with the resultant heat transfer. At most parts, there seemed to be negligible effect.

No considerable cracks were observed on the faces of the concrete block work walls. Suspicious cracks however, were visible at some of the corners, where the wall bond beam meets the top floor slab. This could be observed from the underside.

At the west wing (See Annex 2), some parts of the walls and GI pipe props were observed to be out of alignment but it was not clear whether it was as a result of the fire or that it was so due to poor workmanship (pre-fire).

By inspection, the fire had low or negligible effect on the lower level walls and other vertical members.

 

4. Top Floor Slab (including balcony/verander cantilever beams)

The heat from the burning roof structure which was also conventionally transported to other parts of the building causes materials such as plastic and very thin glass to deform on both sides of the floor slab.

At the central part of the building, reinforcement were partly exposed on the north edge. This can be seen by a person standing in the former restaurant area. Certain cracks were observed at where slab meets the lower level walls. Poor workmanship skills in forming the slab-wall joints (although deemed to be not extensive) were also noted at some parts – this could be observed after underside lining was chipped off or removed.

From the top, the slab was observed to have limited cracks and no apparent damage was noted except for discoloration of the concrete. Discoloration is an indication of high temperature exposure.

During the site inspection, the top surface was still being cleaned and therefore, the inspection was limited to localized random inspection. Consequently, any assessment would only be based on a probable temperature range and the assumed time of exposure to fire. The top floor slab, unlike the ground floor slab was exposed to fire throughout.

On both sides of the building, buttress-like cantilever beams support the extension of the slab for the upper level balconies or veranders. There was no apparent damage observed. The extent of cracks noted was minor and it was not sure whether the cracks were caused by heat exposure or they were already there before the fire. Any engineering judgement would also have to be based on probable temperature range and the time of exposure.

No as-built and design details were available.

5. Upper Level Walls and Stanchions

The heat intensity on the top level walls and stanchions on central block was as severe as that of the top level slab meaning, their current structural condition should be similar in all aspects.

The East and West wings were severely damaged by fire when observed during the investigation survey. It is interesting to note that there were also signs of poor construction technic and workmanship on top level West and East Wing walls which would technically affect the level of confidence in the integrity of the structure. The end walls (or barge ends) have no visible bracing system at all or any supporting structure that would help against lateral forces. However, application of the ring beam and presumably the provision of “sufficient” rebars should have helped the end blockwork walls before the fire. As-built rebar arrangement in the walls and the inter-wall bonding stanchions were not known for sure.

The high fire intensity was suspected to have caused serviceability failure at some points where cracks of more than 2m in length were observed. Exposed steel along the walls and stanchions plus discoloration at most parts of the walling system were also noted, which could be an indication of poor structural performance. This must have most likely been due to high heat exposure than due to poor workmanship. In addition, where poor workmanship was noted, blocks without concrete mortar simply lost more favourable properties.

The post-fire walls may be sufficient for vertical loading but its ability to resist horizontal external forces due to earthquakes and blasts may have been undermined. Resistance wind (extreme tropical cyclonic) and storm surge is said to be risky due to lack of confidence.

6. Steel Framed Roofing System

The steel frame on part of the central semi-circular block (which used to house a restaurant) was significantly damaged and had deformed out of shape and alignment indicating that the original material properties (e.g. strength, ductility) were lost during fully developed stage of the fire. The rafters (merging cable rafter beams), brackets and other steel structural and serviceability members were all out of shape.

 

7. Protected Steel Columns

There was minimum use of protected steel columns in the in the main Pacific Casino Hotel building. Such exposure temperatures noted elsewhere above are very high thus, heat transmission through the protective layer (known as concrete cover which, normally is 50 millimetres) would be effective only to a certain limit in most buildings in Honiara.

No apparent damage was observed both in lower and upper sections of the columns. The columns were observed to be applied only at the central semi-circular block which used to accommodate a restaurant.

 

8. Summary of Findings

Bearing in mind the basic principles of engineering materials, anything subjected to adverse heat condition would result in total alteration to material properties in terms of strength, ductility, brittleness, hardness to name a few. For the sake of metals, the initial bonding arrangement of the atomic structure known as the crystal space lattices dissociates to attain a new structure, totally different from the original structure (pp21-25 etal Neil, Ravinda). In the case of concrete, adverse heat would result in destructive alteration to the binding material which in turn affects the bonding ability of the concrete paste. Concrete have very high compressive strength compared to its tensile strength. Some publications covering the properties of concrete under the adverse condition of fire will be highlighted in section three of the text.

This sub-section summarizes the findings presented in the preceding sub-sections. The summary of the site findings is given in a tabulated form below.

Table 1 – Summary of Findings

Structural Element/ Member Indicative Fire Severity Observations/ Apparent Condition
Footings Negligible Structurally unaffected except for minor relief of loading (due to removal of roofing system – part of dead load)
Ground Floor Slab (RC) Negligible Normal, short durations of heat exposure (30 minutes or less), sound fire resistance, low heat exposure for material of construction.
Lower level Walls (RC Blocks) Low Medium heat exposure, no significant damage observed, limited extent of exposure by surface area – most walls remained intact.
Lower level Stanchions/Columns (RC) Low to Medium Most vertical members formed inter-wall connection with fire or heat exposure similar to lower level walls. No considerable damage was observed. Most parts of buildings remained intact.
Lower Level Wall Top Bond/Ring Beam Medium By their location, the ring beams experienced more heat than the supporting walls – certain parts showed exposed reinforcement**
Lower level Steel Columns Low No visible defects observed – fire exposure deemed low – columns protected by concrete cover (actual as-built concrete cover not known for sure)
Top Floor Slab (RC) Medium Rebars exposed and visible to a person standing in former restaurant area – it is not known for sure whether it exposed due to spalled concrete as a result of high heat or prior poor workmanship.

No extensive cracks were observed (top floor was not yet cleaned then) – discoloration observed especially to the central part of the main hotel building (discoloration could be due to high temperature)

Upper Level Walls High Certain parts (new west wing) noted to be out of shape – cause of defect may be due both to fire or prior poor workmanship.

Barge ends apparently defective – no as-built drawings to verify rebar arrangement.

Prior defective block work laying noted – situation worsen by exposure to fire

Upper Level Stanchions High Situation is very similar to the upper level walls
Upper Section Steel Columns High Steel columns continued from the lower level – exposure to fire higher than the lower section – no definite information with regard to as-built situation
Upper level RC Ring beam High Situation very similar to upper level walls and bonding ability for horizontal differential movements questionable.
Steel Rafters & Steel roofing members High Deformed and failed indicating temperatures reaching beyond 600°C or heat exposure at about 200°C for durations of more than 60 minutes.
Verander/Balcony RC Cantilever Beams Medium No apparent damage and no visible defects – as-built rebar arrangement and concrete specifications not known
Cantilever Props Low 100mm dia GI pipe posts applied – visibly non-vertical and relatively out of alignment – cause of defect may be due both to fire and poor workmanship
General N/A No reliable sources to verify duration of fire exposure especially its peak period (fully fledged stage)

Location of high intensity fire noticeable by degree of discoloration and apparent damage to building parts

Melted glass indicate high temperature range between 300°C and 1200°C

Notes:

Low heat for concrete means temperatures between 50°C and 150°C

Low heat for steel means a temperature range between 30°C and 200°C

Medium heat concrete means a temperature range between 150°C and 300°C

High heat for concrete refers to a temperature range between 300°C and 800°C (concrete loses about 40% of strength at about 600°C – discoloration begins about 300°C)

High heat for steel refers to a temperature range beyond 200°C (steel loses about half of strength at about 600°C)

 

 

SECTION 3 – ENGINEERING ASSESSMENT OF FINDINGS

The assessments given in the following sub-sections lack the following sources of engineering data and information from which a more informed analysis may be based:

· As-built drawings of the main hotel building

· Designer of the building (who designed the building and if there were any calculations to indicate loading situations)

· Specifications of applied shuttering, decorative and lining material such as glass etc.

· Specifications of construction material (e.g. concrete mixes, steel grade etc.)

· Builder information (the firm which was engaged to construct the building)

· Construction resident supervisor (who supervised construction on behalf of the building owner)

· Non-destructive in-situ tests

· Destructive tests of samples from the building remains

· Solomon Islands-based experimental data on structural members and materials exposed to fire (although actually known to be non-existent).

Given the lack of the above-listed sources of information, a certain degree of uncertainty would remain in the mind of any engineer. Certain assumptions had to be made in order to make the assessment and to be able to give an opinion. For example, out of the above list, it was assumed that the steel grade was normal commercial class (structural grade) of Yield point at say 250-300MPa. For concrete, it was assumed to be of normal weight applying 0.5 water/cement ratio and 1:2:4 mix ratios or similar with batching and placement properly supervised and executed. An average minimum concrete characteristic strength of 15MPa was assumed (for structural members, a minimum of 20MPa is said to be the norm). In addition to such assumptions, the authors had available the following sources of information and guidance (see list of references for literature sources):

· Super Hotel Extension Drawings (see Annex 2 – supplied by HCC Planning Office)

· National Building Code for Solomon Islands, 1990 (used for regulatory references)

· AS 3600-1994 Concrete Structures (used for design serviceability limits)

· AS 4100-1990 Steel Structures (used for design serviceability limits)

· Published technical literature (used for reference – See Bibliography)

· Background knowledge of the authors

· Authors’ experience in practice in Solomon Islands

The following sub-sections deals with each aspect of structural concerns namely in order, the material of construction and the known properties thereof, the requirements for structural integrity of the building elements and finally, the expected performance of the complete structural system following exposure to fire.

 

1. Effect of Fire on Concrete

Concrete is the end product of mixtures of Portland cement, well graded gravel, sand and water (and admixtures if and where required). In the case of building structures in the Solomon Islands, Ordinary Portland cement is commonly used without admixtures.

The chemical bonding property of concrete is different from metal in a sense that metals attain complicated crystal space lattice structure whilst concrete has linear strands of polymer like structure which binds “gravel and sand” together. As a common engineering material of construction, concrete strength depends on the composition and proportioning of the aggregates and the cement paste.

Strength, hardness and other properties of concrete depend mainly on the type of “gravel” applied. However, the “gravel” or more correctly the aggregates, may not be able to withstand any considerable loading if the binding medium which is the cement, is incorrectly applied.

The nature of concrete as described above have low resistance to adverse heat condition which easily dissociates the bonding strength of individual cementing “atoms”. Heat on the other hand cause the concrete to expand, thus stretches the tensioning property of the cement that holds gravel and sand over its limit which can no longer retain its original property.

Other changes such as colour of concrete changing from grey to white are a physical property of the cement, indicating that the internal property of the concrete is no longer the same as before.

As a material of construction, concrete applied in the Pacific Casino Hotel building is deemed to be a typical builder’s product in Solomon Islands where the “pre-made” blocks and in-situ concrete applies supplied builder’s mix (for example, as prepared and manufactured by Concrete Industries at Ranadi). In this report, it is assumed that concrete applied satisfies the following criteria before the fire:

· Design block work characteristic strength 7-15MPa

· Ground floor slab design strength 7MPa

· Top floor slab design strength 20MPa

· Building is 10years or less of age

· Top floor slab rebar cover 50mm (indicative for 30minutes fire exposure)

Normally, the strength of concrete indicated is that one achieved at 28days. The process of internal reaction in the material continues over time and for our purpose, we could say for up to 10 years. There is an increase in strength over time and if we apply it to the above-listed assumed characteristic strengths, it can be said a maximum strength of about 30MPa would be characteristic of the hotel top floor slab at the end of a period of ten years (say). Next comes, the fire and the resultant exposure of the hotel top floor slab to high temperatures. From the findings of the preceding section, there was evidence of temperatures ranging from 300°C to 1200°C. In the opinion of the authors, an average temperature of about 600°C was probably the most occurring at those parts damaged by fire. It was reported that the fire in building lasted throughout the night. This, from an engineering point of view, an exposure period of 2hrs or less was likely. In the assessment, a minimum fire duration of 30minutes is used. From the drawings, a 50mm concrete cover is indicative only. Following the fire, concrete cooled down on its own fully influenced by the weather. With reference to technical literature, the following is said to be the situation of the Pacific Casino Hotel top floor slab after the fire:

Post-fire slab strength: 15MPa for gravel aggregate (4mx5m span)

Post-fire loading: Normal hotel accommodation per room

With the assumed 30minutes exposure time to temperatures 300°C-600°C, it can be said the floor slab would be still satisfactory. The problem is that one of the upstairs room houses a bar and its space could hold up to more than 60 persons at a time meaning a live load of up to 4.5tons would be likely. Also, while it is deemed to satisfy the conditions for structural integrity (e.g. concrete cover for fire resistance), there is still uncertainty as to the as-built situation.

From the above discussion, it is said the top floor slab would be able to hold loading for accommodating rooms for guests but may not be sufficient for public use where more than 40 persons could gather. Also, fire damage was more severe to the central part of the building and it is this part of the slab that is likely to have been undermined. Even the condition for fire resistance indicated above is already pushing the engineering standard to the limit. This means for confidence sake, the central part (above the reception area) of the slab must either be restored or demolished. The lack of access to the list of information sources given earlier is only a warrant for demolition.

The top floor slab was used in the assessment because it is the most flexural (and most critical in this case) member of the building structure. The situation with the upper level walls would not meet the conditions for structural integrity given for the slab based on site findings as well as that described above for the slab. This simply means that the upper walls and stanchions should either be fully restored (or strengthening) or simply demolished.

The lower level of the building seemed to satisfy the conditions for structural integrity.

Extracts from some reference texts are attached hereto in the annexes.

 

2. Effect of Fire on Steel

Increasing the temperature on steel would cause the following;

Ø Thermal Expansion of steel

Ø Elongation of steel

Ø Deform the shape of steel to attain a new shape that is different from the original shape.

Ø Reduction of strength capacity if the material is allowed to deform significantly (near to the melting point).

Ø Increase oxidation reaction of steel iron elements causing rust (oxide deposits/product) on the surfaces.

The change in temperature may have significant effect on the fracture toughness of a material. An increase in temperature will render dislocation in metals more mobile and, hence, will cause a reduction in yield strength. Conversely, a reduction in temperature will give an increased yield strength with accompanying decrease in ductility (Jackson et al, pp47, 1996).

Increasing temperature will cause the steel to expand, elongate, deformed thus reducing its strength. With regard to annex (), graph “a” is a simple representation of steel when under going stress. Between point Y and U, material or steel with take up a new shape and will not retain original shape and property even if the stress is removed. Anything beyond point U has failed which if not rapture at the first place it will certainly do so if loading is continually applied.

A loaded structural member under fire would behave better (post-fire) than that exposed to fire unloaded. It was reported that the situation with regard to the hotel building is closer to an unloaded structure than a loaded one. Steel members were applied mainly at central part where it used to house a restaurant. The remaining members that could be re-used are the vertical members only where it is protected by concrete cover (these are the columns). All other steel members were already defective and indicated a temperatures reaching beyond 200°C. Following exposure to fire the steel has become less ductile (more brittle) especially the roofing members.

Given the findings of the preceding section, it can be said that all flexural and torsional members must be removed. The concrete protected vertical members may be re-used.

Extracts from some reference texts are attached hereto in the annexes.

 

3. As-Built Structure Fire Rating / Fire Protection System

To assess the fire rating of the of the building, sections and details provided in attached annex() was used.

Ø Slab is 150mm (One hundred fifty millimetres) thick, with double stream D12 bars and 10mm binders at 200mm centre to centre, cover is 50mm on both faces.

Ø For the lower level a 450 x 200mm concrete beam with 8 x D16 bars and 10mm Dia binders at 200mm cc, cover all around is 50mm was used.

Ø Wall is 200mm thick and was built of 200 x 200 x 450mm block work with D16 vertical bars at 800mm centre to centre both for the bottom and top floor.

Ø For the top level a 350 x 200mm concrete beam with 6 D16 bars and D10 bar binders at 300mm centre to centre was used.

Ø Steel sections limited to central location of the main hotel building only.

For the building structure, fire rating refers to “preserved structural action over a desired length of time under fire”. It was noted that the hotel building had linings and toppings which to a certain degree, helped protect the structural system. It was also noted especially in the lower part of the building, spread of fire and transmission of heat was effectively hindered by the walls and partitions. This is the good news for lower part of the building. On the other hand, the progressive movement of fire due to collapsing roof did not stop fire spread at the upper level of the building.

In the authors’ opinion, the building plan has satisfactory fire resisting ability. The concern however, is the upper level of the building where fire emergency response system could not be verified during the survey. Fire exits should be incorporated. It may have been the case that the occupiers were able to leave the building before the fire was deliberately lit. It could also have been the case that accidental fire might have resulted in occupants being trapped in the building. Fire safety equipment cannot be fully effective without fire compartmentalization.

 

4. Effect of Fire on Building Structural Members

In buildings, the effect of fire on the building materials is not as important an issue as the effect of fire on the building elements. The ability to maintain structural integrity is dependent mostly on the performance of the structural members. Local member failure might have occurred and could be corrected or restored. The response of the whole building structure to working loads would definitely not be the same as that before the fire. For example, the central part of the hotel was noted to have sustained more fire damage – this means the structural uniformity has been discontinued and would therefore require full restoration or otherwise demolished and restarted. An option would be to separate the building into two independent structures in the interest to minimize rebuilding costs.

The duration to which a concrete member is subjected to a change in temperature than normal can be used to judge the integrity of such structure. Different durations of exposure to fire have been tested and there have been found effective dimensions for concrete structures for different ratings of temperature range.

The following quote states one such reference:

The outbreak of fire in a concrete building can have disastrous consequences, including severe structural damage, total loss of contents, and loss of life. The consequences of fire are potentially far more costly than serviceability failure, and often more serious than structural failure. Special measures need to be taken in the design of concrete buildings to provide an appropriate degree of fire resistance. These measures influence the detail structural design of the building, for example by imposing minimum requirements for cross-section dimensions and concrete cover for the structural components. The layout of the building may also be influence by the need to provide special fire-separating members which compartmentalise the building into separate fire regions

The ability of the load bearing members to maintain structural adequacy in the presence of fire, while resisting the sustained loads acting, is of crucial importance in the further sequence of events. Very high ambient temperatures occur during the fully developed phase of the fire and produce shape temperature gradients with an attenuated rise in temperature within the structural members. The increasing internal temperature causes a fall-off in the elastic modulus and the yield strength of the steel reinforcement. The effects of temperature on the steel properties become noticeable at 200oC; they are significant at 400oC and very serious at 600oC. The compressive strength of and the stiffness of the concrete are also affected significantly at around 400oC. If the fire is sufficiently severe, the load capacity of individual members can fall to the level of the sustain loads which are acting, so that the local collapse occurs. Large deflections occur prior to the collapse, owing to the loss of elasticity in both steel and concrete. At an early stage, structural damage commences with spalling of cover concrete at edges and corners due to temperature gradients. If the protective concrete cover is lost by spalling, the temperature of the steal reinforcement reaches a critical level very quickly and a condition of collapse can develop. If the structural system is not robust, the loss of one member due to the effect of fire can trigger a progressive collapse (Warner et al, pp880-881, 1999).

The whole upper level and the central part of the building were characterized by the following observations, which, warrants a questionable state of structural integrity:

Ø A certain degree of Spalling failure on concrete edges.

Ø Exposure of reinforcement (reliability of indicative concrete cover)

Ø Non alignment of galvanised columns.

Ø Cracks or fissures on upper level walls and central slab.

Ø Pockets of air space appearing on shear walls after plastered mortar was removed from the face on both sides of wall.

Ø Non vertical alignment or deflection of walls.

Ø Change in colour of concrete.

 

5. Theoretical, Experimental and Practical Situations

It has been stated earlier that most of the Pacific Casino Hotel main building is made up of concrete members. In theory, concrete has good fire resisting properties than steel. Experimental data has also proven that concrete generally performs satisfactorily for long periods of time under fire (with no toxic fumes produced). In practice, concrete is still rated as a fire resisting building material which can be applied in a structural member as well as a protective “coating” and barrier. However, the bad news for concrete in practice (and especially) in Solomon Islands are as follows:

· Lack of on site quality assurance tests such as slump tests during construction in most cases (with the exception of a few known projects)

· Lack of regular lab tests

· Lack of coordinated information and data sharing among built environment architects and engineers (and laboratory technicians)

· Lack of proper certified site supervision (with most concreting works left to the “experience” of the carpenter or the “hands on builder”

· Lack of record of as-built situations

· Poor knowledge of the properties of concrete (usually a misconception)

The above-listed situation makes it really difficult (but not impossible) for the engineer to quickly make any judgment such as determining the structural integrity of a “deemed-to-be-dangerous” building. Often, the engineer would either take a risky opinion or start from scratch and carry out structural calculations. Most of the time, in the authors experience, the engineer takes the risky option in his judgment. This is because a structural analysis is expensive for most clients (engineers charge large fees). However, the golden rule is “if you are not sure, demolish it and start all over again with proper supervision”.

In the case of the building being assessed, more information is required and the most critical part of the structure is the central region of the top floor RC slab. Some of these information and data should be obtained from the list of the possible sources given at the beginning of this section. With limited information, the level of confidence would be very low with regard to the structural integrity of those members that were noted to have been damaged by fire. This, unfortunately, is the bad news for the upper level of the Pacific Casino Hotel.

Another reason for low confidence in the upper level of the building is as follows:

When the fire was building up both in coverage and intensity, a temperature gradient was created in the structural member. After the fire has reached its peak the process of cooling begins. The cooling process may be fast (quenched) or slow (natural). If the temperature had reached beyond 300°C, up to 30% of strength could be lost. Even if the residual (post-fire) strength might be sufficient, excessive exposure to very high temperature to temperatures beyond 400°C has very serious consequences. The authors believed that the central part and most of the upper walls of the hotel was exposed to temperatures of about 600°C for at least 30 minutes. Excessive temperature gradients and extended time of exposure would cause the structural member to completely lose its properties before the fire. The result would be reduced strength, stiffness and toughness of the member.

With reference to AS3600 (Concrete Structures) the following were determined for the building in question:

Fire Separating Functions – lower walls and top floor slab served well in preventing spread of fire, roof was not effective and because the roof was ineffective, the upper walls were also helpless in containing spread of fire in the upper level of the building.

Floor slab effective thickness for insulation is 150mm (indicated by supplied drawings and generally verified by inspection) – this thickness should have fire resistance period of 3hrs (180 minutes) in accordance with table 5.5.1 of AS3600-1994, page 37.

Concrete cover of underside of slab deemed to be sufficient for structural adequacy with a possible fire resistance period of up to 4 hrs (240 minutes) – this view is further supported by the effectiveness of slab to contain spread of fire from top to bottom. The situation leaves further assessment to be based on pre-fire as-built situation, in-fire assumed exposure condition and post-fire estimates of structural performance – to enable a conclusion on structural integrity of the top floor slab (Ref: table 5.5.3 (A) of AS3600-1994).

Upper level walls effective thickness for insulation was deemed to be 150mm which would have a fire resistance period of 3hrs. No firm verification whether or not block work walls were filled 100% to assume a solid wall criterion. Further assessment may be based on applied blocks pre-fire quality assurance (Reference clause 5.7.2, page 40, AS3600-1994).

 

SECTION 4 – FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Summary of Assessments

With reference to the preceding sections, the following summary can be made (in list form):

· Fire damage was more considerable on the upper level floor slab and walls. The lower part of the building was deemed to be considerably unaffected. It was found that the most critical post-fire building part is the floor slab especially that section located to the central part of the hotel. This is so because this part of the structure is the most flexural member – with concrete flexural properties being the first and the most affected in the event of fire exposure.

· The structural integrity of the floor slab was deemed questionable especially to the central part of the building. No pre-fire prerequisite information was available to otherwise support any verification analysis to enable confidence in the post-fire performance of this part of the structure.

· The structural integrity of the upper walls was deemed questionable and the situation is deemed to be very similar to the post-fire situation of the top floor slab. No specific sections of walls were identified to be unaffected in the upper part of the building.

· The peak of the fire was assumed to have reached 600oC with an average exposure period of 30 minutes. The cooling off of the building elements was deemed to have been slow (or natural) with weather deemed to have been most influential in effecting the cooling process. Alternatively, a 300oC heat exposure for an average period of 60 minutes could be assumed for the identified critical parts of the Pacific Casino Hotel building.

· Certain regulatory measures were not complied with such as quality assurance control during construction. This was found to be true given the lack of “certificates” and as-built drawings.

· Non-destructive in-situ test methods were not possible due to lack of access to required specialized equipment. Consequently, destructive tests should be carried out to verify the lack of confidence in the post-fire condition of the upper floor slab and walls.

 

2. Recommendations

The following recommendations are based on the above summary of assessments, the annexes and the general observation of the authors as given herein the report:

(i) The entities involved in constructing the building (including the owner) should be required to provide more information with regard to the as-built situation of the building before the fire to enable further assessments.

(ii) Demolish the upper level walls of the building if no restoration or strengthening schemes cannot be provided. This includes the newer construction to the west of the main building. Defects observed such as those identified in Section 2 of the report in fact should have warranted the west wing of the building to be demolished and redone – building should not have been passed even without the effect of the fire.

(iii) Separate the main building into two independent structures because of the lack of confidence in the central part of the building (floor slab fire exposure highest in this part). The area concerned is where the reception (lower level) and the public bar (upper level) were located.

Alternatively, the following recommendations may be applied together:

(iv) Require the owner to provide his re-building plans and drawings clearly stating the use of the building

(v) Demolish and redo all of the upper level walls as in (ii) above. Note, whenever partial demolition of a structure is required, due care must be taken to avoid considerable damage to rest of the building structural system – this simply means the corrective action must be supervised by an engineer or an experienced architect.

(vi) Retain the top floor slab but with a reduced service load (meaning change use of upper rooms especially that part which used to accommodate a public bar).

(vii) Request a committee of engineers to verify the findings and recommendations of this report especially with regard to the authors’ deliberation as given in Annex 3 – random structural check of the top floor slab.

 

3. Conclusion

The following conclusion is drawn with respect to the post-fire structural situation of the Pacific Casino Hotel building:

(a) There is no confidence in the structural integrity of the upper level walls of the building including the newer west wing.

(b) The top floor slab may be reused but a reduced service load is advisable.

(c) The lack of information with regard to the pre-fire situation of the building increases doubt on the expected post-fire performance of the structure. The assumed in-fire exposure condition only encourages the view to condemn rather than make compromises.

(d) No evidence of quality control and assurance during the construction of the building was found – this necessitates more information from the owner of the building under question.

END OF REPORT

 

Bibliography

Blake L. S, (ed) Civil Engineer’s Reference Book, Butterwood, London, 1975

Jackson, N. & Dhir R. K. Fifth Edition, Civil Engineering Materials, Macmillan Press Ltd, London, 1996

Neville A. M, Third Edition, Properties of Concrete, Longman, Singapore, 1981

Standards Australia, AS 3600-1994, Concrete Structures - Design for Fire Resistance.

Standards Australia, AS 4100-1994, Steel Structures - Fire.

Standards Australia, AS 1480-1974, SAA Concrete Structures Code – Structural Members and Systems, 1978

Warner R. F, Rangan B. V, Hall A. S, Faulkes K. A, Fifth Edition, Concrete Structures, Longman, London, 1999