The opposition leader of the Solomon Islands has called the national government’s security deal with Beijing unnecessary for pacifying internal and external threats—saying any civil unrest was sorely the fault of the national government.
Matthew Wale said secrecy around the deal with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was an “escalation by Prime Minister (Manasseh) Sogavare in his struggle with Malaita.”
“How this deal will be used on the Malaita situation has direct implications on all provinces in Solomon Islands and governance broadly,” he said in an April 15 statement obtained by The Epoch Times. “A vibrant democracy is marked by the acceptance of a plurality of views and an inclusive embracive government.”
“All the drivers of instability, insecurity and even threats to national unity in Solomon Islands are entirely internal,” he added.
Sogavare’s government has been at odds with the leader of Malaita Province, Daniel Suidani, over a 2019 decision to switch the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing.
Provincial leader Suidani has stood firm on relations with Taiwan, however, much to the chagrin of the prime minister.
The issue came to a head in November last year when riots erupted in the Islands’ capital Honiara, which saw the Chinatown district razed and resulted in three deaths.
Wale called Prime Minister Sogavare a “mercenary” of Beijing, and that he had longed for the day he could “exact revenge” on Australia—the prime minister has been a long-time critic of Australia’s involvement in the region claiming it was engaging in “colonialism.”
The opposition leader said “that day [of vengeance] has arrived, and he has gladly thrust his sword into Australia’s back. China is only too happy to oblige Prime Minister Sogavare, there is a meeting of minds on this.”
Wale said along with foreign relations, the people of the Solomon Islands were frustrated with corruption, state capture, economic marginalisation, high unemployment, as well as poor delivery of healthcare and education services.
“Honiara continues to monopolise decision-making and consume a disproportionate share of the national income and wealth,” he said. “The provincial governments have long complained of merely ‘being the agents of the central government.’”
The opposition leader said the current government had allowed the exploitation of locals to line their own pockets.
“Natural resources are removed from our islands, and our people are poorer after that,” he said. “No tangible sustainable development has resulted from this exploitative economy. The country’s wealth goes overseas through unrestrained transfer pricing, aided, and abetted by the country’s leaders.”
Wale’s statement comes after the premier of Solomon’s Western Province, Christian Burley Mesepitu, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the security agreement with Beijing.
“There are too many gaps in the proposal for any right-minded Solomon Islander to be comfortable with it,” he said in a statement.
In late March, details of the secret agreement between the Solomon Islands and Beijing were leaked online and would allow the CCP to dispatch forces to “protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in the Solomon Islands.”
Such a move could potentially extend the reach of the People’s Liberation Army beyond the South China Sea to the South Pacific—a strategically important position—and usher in the possible militarization of the region.
Diplomatic efforts to Prime Minister Sogavare have ramped up from U.S. and Australian leaders in recent weeks to dissuade him from implementing the deal.
Kurt Campbell, U.S. National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, is set to travel to the Pacific nation this month, accompanied by Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, according to the Financial Times.
While Australia’s Pacific Minister Zed Seselja put election campaigning on hold to visit the Solomon Islands’ leader to “respectfully consider not signing” the agreement with Beijing.