Australia fears Moti's appointment as AG may backfire moves to improve good governance
The Solomon Islands yesterday appointed the controversial Australian lawyer Julian Moti as its Attorney-General, despite strong opposition from the Australian Government and from within the local legal fraternity.
"The Australian Government is deeply concerned and disappointed at the appointment of Moti," a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said, adding the decision had the potential to set back moves to improve good governance.
Mr Moti's predecessor, Primo Afeau, had strongly opposed clauses in the terms of reference for a planned commission of inquiry into the April riots.
Australia believes the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, intended to use the inquiry to free two MPs, Charles Dausabea and Nelson Ne'e, who are facing incitement charges.
Mr Afeau was yesterday refusing to leave his office, local media reported. There has been widespread publicity given to an earlier ban on Mr Moti entering the Solomon Islands and the fact that he once represented a Chinese-Malaysian logging company. He had been charged with the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in neighbouring Vanuatu, but was acquitted.
Originally from Fiji and of ethnic Indian origin, Mr Moti studied law at Sydney University and became an Australian citizen. Most members of the Solomons bar boycotted his swearing-in as a Queen's Counsel in 2003.
The official statement announcing Mr Moti's appointment said he was an adjunct professor in the faculty of law at Bond University in Queensland. The university said yesterday the position was voluntary and unpaid.
Earlier this week the Solomons Government announced it had cancelled plans to appoint Mr Moti to the post.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald