PM Sogavare says his gov't does not intend to retaliate against Australia's visa ban action, contradicting earlier reports
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has refuted a front-page story carried on today’s issue of the Solomon Star claiming that the Solomon Islands government will ban all Australian ministers and parliamentarians from visiting Solomon Islands.
Mr Sogavare said as far as the government was concerned there was no intention by the government to retaliate to Canberra’s imposed travel ban on Solomon Islands national parliamentarians.
Canberra imposed the ban in response to the swearing- in of Julian Moti for the Attorney General post Tuesday last week.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the Solomon Islands government was too civilized and mature to resort to any such naïve retaliatory action.
He said he had made it clear to the Australian government that if it was concerned about Moti’s induction it should look at the issues surrounding his (Moti’s) suspension.
Mr Sogavare said it was coward of Canberra to use other issues such as the travel ban to pressure Solomon Islands over the investiture of Moti.
The Prime Minister meanwhile condemned the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer for choosing to write a second open letter to the Solomon Islands public through the media to express Australia’s objection to the swearing in of Mr Moti.
He said Mr Downer had belittled his status by expressing Canberra’s views in the Letter to the Editor column instead of channeling them through the right channel - the Australian High Commissioner in Solomon Islands.
Mr Sogavare said Mr Downer’s excuse for resorting to the media on the first occasion was the absence of a High Commissioner for Australia in Solomon Islands.
He said that first letter could be excusable as Australia was still without a High Commissioner in Solomon Islands then due to the expulsion of Patrick Cole as the Australian High Commissioner.
Mr Sogavare said now that Australia has a High Commissioner in place, Mr Downer had no reason under the sun to express Canberra’s views directly to the people of Solomon Islands through the media.
Mr Downer in his first letter expressed concern about the Solomon Islands government’s proposed rearmament programme claiming that an opinion poll conducted by a Solomon Islands newspaper found that the majority of Solomon Islanders were opposed to rearmament.
However, the Solomon Islands government was unaware of any such opinion poll ever being conducted by a local newspaper.