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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Australia warns of rising tensions in the Solomons

Australia has warned of rising tensions in Solomon Islands amid a diplomatic row between the two neighbours and a looming no-confidence vote targeting the leadership in parliament next week.

Radio New Zealand International quotes Australia’s foreign ministry as saying that with the resumption of parliament next week, Australians should avoid protests and large gatherings.

Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, faces a no-confidence vote organised by opposition lawmakers. Mr Sogavare expelled Australia’s top diplomat this month, accusing him of undermining a government-ordered inquiry into two days of rioting in April.

Since 2003, Australia has led a South Pacific aid mission to stamp out corruption and restore security in Solomon Islands after it came close to collapse amid ethnic violence and mismanagement.

Nearly 400 troops and an extra 120 police from Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea were rushed to the Solomon Islands after national elections sparked the April riots which left Honiara's Chinatown in ruins.

In another related news, a regional academic says the appointment of a controversial lawyer, Julian Moti to the position of Solomon Islands Attorney-General will further sour already tense relations with Australia.

Radio New Zealand International reports the associate professor of governance at the University of the South Pacific Dr Jon Fraenkel as saying the judiciary and the legal fraternity have been independent up until now.

This month's decision to sack the Attorney-General Primo Afeau came after he disagreed with government policy. Dr Fraenkel says the appointment of Mr Moti whose past includes charges of rape in Vanuatu that were eventually dismissed and being banned for interfering in local politics in Solomon Islands was not a good signal to Australia.

He says the political situation in Solomon Islands was fluid and the motion of no confidence in the government may see further changes occur.

Source: SIBC

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