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Solomon Islands

China influence dividing Pacific nation

Solomon Islands is battling to resist exerted influence from China after one of its province leaders was nearly toppled.

The interference had almost forced a no-confidence motion in Malaita premier Daniel Suidani until up to 20,000 citizens earlier in the month flooded the Auki township to block the motion.

Premier Daniel Suidani has remained resistance to China’s advance in his Malaita province. Source: Council of Pacific Affairs

A notice to withdrawal the motion, spurred on by Suidani’s supporters’ protests, was later signed after political rival Elijah Asilau conceded it was not in the best interest of the Malaita province.

The backdown has avoided a national security crisis.

Angry crowds including women had blocked and locked the provincial assembly chamber to protest against a no-confidence vote in the premier.

Their mood turned to jubilation after the motion was withdrawn, much to the dismay of non-executive members, the national government and allegedly China, who continue to attempt to influence the Pacific through diplomatic means.

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However, under Malaita’s provincial government act, another motion can be moved against Suidani’s administration after one year.

Asilaua told The Pacific Advocate he cannot comment on the possibility of China and national government supporting the deflated motion over the sensitivity surrounding the issue currently.

He will publicly address the matter at a later date.

However, Opposition MP Derick Manu’ari outlined the start of the split between the province and the national government after the diplomatic switch of 2019 that recognised China over Taiwan.

Manu’ari said the decision to “divorce” Taiwan was met with mixed reactions by both the country’s leaders and ordinary citizens.

“Of all provincial leaders who unrelentingly stood out against the switch, premier Suidani was the most prominent,” Manu’ari said.

“His stand was unwavering and firm. His stand was generally based on two grounds: on governance best practice and on religious beliefs.”

Manu’ari pointed at China’s practices of communism and as a non-Christian country, which has a track record of persecuting its own religious citizens.

He said Suidani’s firm and brash stand against the switch was met with strong resentment from the national government and also the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA), who wished a switch was supported within the entire country, including provincial premiers.

“At that time, it was even made known to the public that Malaita province and some of its people, including constituencies whose MPs are in the parliamentary opposition, would not be benefitting from any assistance from China,” Manu’ari said.

Prime minister Manasseh Sogavare still aspires to see a united Solomon Islands and not a fragmented country despite Malaita’s resistance against the national government’s new position with China.

Sogavare said the way Malaita handled the matter was not to be too confrontational after the national government allowed the provincial government’s ministry to deal with it.

He said the last thing his government had wanted to do was to spoil its relationship with the outspoken province.

“Our switch to China, we are not doing anything outside. I know there are powers at play – these are the same people who have diplomatic relationship with China. We are a sovereign nation,” Sogavare said.

“We make decisions on what is best for this country…we don’t make decisions to spoil our country.”

1 Comment
  1. Chris Hapert Haarabe 11 months ago
    Reply

    Good piece, so powerful. Thanks Eddie Osifelo for the story.

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