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Solomon Islands

Confusion and fear in Solomons over China pact

There is confusion amongst the people of the Solomon Islands regarding the security pact with China, as details of the deal still remain unknown to the public.

Some still believe that a military base will be made on the island. One tribal leader has shown concern that land belonging to his people could be taken away.

A chief of the Niteni tribe in the Rennell and Bellona provinces, Richard Pautangata, said his biggest concern was that people in the Solomon Islands did not know what the deal encompassed.

Mr Pautangata said there were fears that the treaty would allow China to establish a military base in Solomon Islands.

He said he was not sure which province would allow for that but suspects his province could be a target for China.

He said 70 per cent of land on Rennell Island was owned by the Solomon Islands Government, and most of it was leased to an Asian logging and mining company, Asia Pacific Investment Development.

Mr Pautangata said despite the number of logging and mining activities on the island, not all landowners benefited.

Children in Honiara. Picture: UN Habitat

He fears the geographical location of his island could see it being targeted.

Premier of the Malaita province, Daniel Suidani, said the treaty raised a lot of concerns.

Most in the province of Malaita are opposed to the Sogovare leadership and feel that the deal may allow the leader to engage Chinese police to extend his reign.

“I see the risks already of our new friend because we are not ready to stand on their ideology,” he said.

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“Even Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States have expressed their concern of the security treaty.”

Malaita Province Youth Council are also concerned. Much of this has to do with not knowing what the deal will allow the government to do.

“We should not allow our place for military base. We are too small to create conflicts between superpowers,” the Council said.

“The youths are the future of the country and the government should have consulted with them first.”

Rennell Island which a tribal leader fears could become a target. Picture: UNESCO

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told parliament last week the security agreement was not a private arrangement.

He said the opposition had used the deal to create rumours and misinformation.

“It is a bilateral treaty between two sovereign states, Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China,” he said.

“We also have a security arrangement with Australia that was signed sometime in 2017. There was no consultation done on this. This was also not a private agreement. It is an agreement between Solomon Islands and Australia.”

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