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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Prime Minister to address Nation tomorrow on stand-off between him and Attorney General

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will address the nation tomorrow on the stand-off between him and the Attorney General.

Mr Sogavare and his delegation will arrive this afternoon from Taiwan. Yesterday, he described the situation as a “storm in a teacup” and accused Attorney General, Primo Afeau of “instigation a public campaign to discredit the Grand Coalition Government”.

“Both before and after initiating judicial review proceedings against the PM, Mr Afeau denounced Cabinet’s decision to set up the Commission of Inquiry into the April riots in Honiara through the publication of several statements and allegations in the Solomon Star newspaper,” a statement issued by his office yesterday, said.

He expressed his displeasure with the Attorney General’s “defiant attitude and will take decisive action to ensure that the people of Solomon Islands are not misled by attempts to distort the truth and propagate myths and mysteries”.

He said he was astounded to learn about the lengths that opponents of truth are prepared to go in derailing the Commission of Inquiry in its tracks before fulfilling its mandate. “We should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who have reason to be worried about what we might eventually find out. I am encouraged by the Leader of Opposition’s proposals for the expansion of the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry and will count on his support in this endeavour.”

Meanwhile, the Solomon Star has reported that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare wants to recruit a foreign lawyer to be the country’s next Attorney General, replacing Mr Afeau. Reports has it that he had already issued a directive to the chairman of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission for the termination of Attorney General Primo Afeau’s contract.

Sources have named Julian Moti, an Australian citizen of Indian origin, as Mr Sogavare’s choice to replace Mr Afeau. Mr Moti is a lawyer admitted to practice in Solomon Islands. He is understood to be a partner in Honiara-based Pacific Lawyers law firm. In May, he flew in to represent MPs Charles Dausabea and Nelson Ne’e, who are facing riot related charges. Bail applications he lodged on behalf of the two MPs were however, repeatedly refused by both the Magistrate and High Court.

Sources also believe he may be the anonymous lawyer Attorney General Mr Afeau was referring to in his correspondence with the prime minister. But any move to formally appoint him is likely to raise eyebrows from the legal fraternity, as he is not a Solomon Islands citizen. Prominent Honiara lawyer Andrew Radclyffe said Mr Moti is not the right man for the job.

According to the country's Constitution, the Attorney General is the legal adviser to the Government and the Cabinet. He is therefore privy to state secrets. In certain circumstances he can take part in the proceedings of the National Parliament. It would surely be very strange indeed that a foreigner could participate in another country’s parliamentary debates, Mr Radclyffe stated.

Attorney General Mr Afeau had earlier challenged the prime minister to ensure the recruitment of his successor is done in a transparent manner.
He said if the prime minister wants to sack him, national lawyers must be given the opportunity to apply for the position. “I hope you have not already handpicked the person who may have been advising you since you became prime minister as the next Attorney General,” Mr Afeau told Mr Sogavare.

Source: Solomon Star

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