‘Tread carefully’, opposition warns Solomons PM over geopolitical rivalries

Solomon Islands opposition leader Matthew Wale
Solomon Islands opposition leader Matthew Wale ... this is a "very dangerous place" over geopolitics. Image: SBM Online

By Robert Iroga

Solomon Islands opposition leader Matthew Wale has warned that the country is a young and “fairly fragile” democracy and should keep clear of geopolitical rivalries as Papua New Guinean security forces prepare for today’s opening of Parliament.

His statement followed a leak last week of a controversial draft security pact between China and Solomon Islands.

Wale said this was a “very dangerous place” to be in and the agreement placed Solomon Islands in a vulnerable place in the face of geopolitical competition.

“This is not the place Solomon Islands should be [in] and not in the best interest of Solomon Islands,” he said in a statement.

Wale said geopolitics already had had an impact on “our politics, domestic governance and even threatening our national unity”.

He said that if the security agreement took on more serious deployments and shore-based facilities, there would be “force projection issues”.

“If we have Chinese military assets here in Solomon Islands, for sure it will project Chinese force that has a direct implication for the rest of the region,” Wale said.

Transparency needed
The opposition leader warned that these were not small issues and the government should tread carefully.

Wale said it would be good to know what was missing in the Australia and New Zealand agreement that Solomon Islands had benefitted from compared to the China pact.

“It is important that our security relationships are open and transparent,” he said.

“But the way the document was leaked points to secrecy with due process into its drafting and the government has not been transparent about it.”

This was not surprising because Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his government had always been operating under secrecy, Wale said.

The opposition leader said the Prime Minister and his government had taken an unnecessary and very sensitive step.

“We wouldn’t be surprised [if] all these are done for the Prime Minister’s own political security.”

Government rejects criticism
A government statement rejected Wale’s concerns, saying that the national security of any country was a matter for the government to decide.

The decision to welcome back the PNG Defence Force was deliberated on and approved by cabinet and that represented the official position of the government.

The PNGDF consisted of highly professional soldiers and their presence would “boost the safety and security of peace-loving individuals and properties”.

PNG security personnel would come under the overall command of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).

Republished with permission from SBM Online.

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