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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Solomons reprimands Australian envoy

By Craig Skehan, Honiara
May 2, 2006

Acting Solomon Islands Prime Minister Snyder Rini has said the Australian Government should recall its high commissioner after what he said was proof of Canberra's interference in the internal politics of the Solomons.

Envoy Patrick Cole "was red-faced", Mr Rini said yesterday after he summoned Mr Cole to his office for an official reprimand.

An Australian Finance Department official was sent home after the leaking of an email he wrote referring to Mr Cole's dealings with Solomons businessman Sir Thomas Chan over political manoeuvring for the prime ministership.

The official said Mr Cole told him he had talked to Sir Thomas and his son, Foreign Minister Laurie Chan, about "why Rini had been selected" as the Government's candidate for a parliamentary leadership ballot, given assurances to the contrary.

An Australian Foreign Affairs Department spokesman confirmed Mr Cole had been called into Mr Rini's office, but denied that the Solomons wanted him recalled.

"The Australian Government has not been asked to recall the high commissioner and nor do we intend to," he said. The spokesman denied Mr Cole had breached diplomatic norms.

Following Mr Rini's election by Parliament as Prime Minister on April 18, there was politically inspired rioting and looting amid claims of official corruption.

Mr Rini said yesterday that the leaked email was "proof" Mr Cole was interfering in Solomons politics as he had already been told by Sir Thomas that the Australian high commissioner and Government were against him.

He said there had been false speculation that he wanted to expel the Australian-led law-and-order intervention force deployed in 2003 to stem ethnic conflict and corruption.

Mr Rini said Mr Cole had not commented on the email at their meeting in Honiara yesterday.

News Source: The Age (


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