OPINION: Solomon Islands collusion


Kevin Byrne

Guest Columnist

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"The Solomon Islands is an impoverished sovereign country,” Kevin Byrne.
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What a nauseating pile on against the Federal Government regarding China and the Solomons. It is gross overreach, lacks historical context and completely incorrect

Some facts will help to understand.

The Solomon Islands is an impoverished sovereign country loud on high octane talk whose aspirations outweigh their capacity. 

They are a sovereign country and are a corrupted “democracy”, a member of several world forums and importantly make their own decisions as they see fit.Sadly they have little understanding of the cause and effect of much of their decision making outcomes. Diplomacy, gratitude, trust, appreciation and respect currently does not define their domestic and international behaviour.The current Prime Minister Manese Sogarave as presently having his 4th crack at being PM having failed miserably on previous occasions to lead a united and respected government. Recently he was conveniently courted by the PRC who bankrolled him into buying off candidates to form government with the intention to ditch Taiwan and recognise the PRC.

Corruption is endemic there and the country is split down the middle on ethnic lines. So much so that it required Australia to mount a 14 year $2.2B multi nation peace keeping operation alongside some smaller contributions from RAMSI partners NZ, PNG and Fiji. A low grade, noisy and disruptive civil war was going on there for well over a decade. Recently Australia generously mobilised immediately again at the request of PM Sogorave to save lives and property to suppress ethnic unrest again including attacks on numerous PRC nationals who predominate in business there. We recently provided them with an undersea high speed communication cable linking the Solomons to the world. So much for regional family ties.

This background leads to the reasonable conclusion that the Solomon Islands is complicit in the subterfuge to maximise PRC political leverage to pour pressure on the only regional Government that has taken on China’s excesses across the region where it seeks to coerce the meek by economic strangulation. “Belt and road initiatives” across the world peddled by PRC snake oil operatives is part of their foreign policy of targeted assistance to many impoverished nations. The lure is money influence. The PRC has zero interest in first world philanthropy and trusted, targeted aid outcomes. Everything comes at a price. Hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels and patrol boats are rusting at wharves, run up on the beaches or sunk at their moorings. PNG for example is littered with numerous failed PRC aid and investment projects built by PRC imported labour who stay in situ at the end adding to the potential social powder keg ahead. This is familiar PRC playbook stuff. China plays the long game and this game is all about regional coercion.

Those who are encouraging of this recent pile on against the Australian Government from within as a FAIL in Foreign Policy are disingenuous. This Government has been extremely generous to Melanesia and the Pacific including extraordinary and gracious support to the Solomons who time and again demonstrate their incompetence. We are a geographic family needing to coexist in a free, stable and prosperous region. Australians are entitled to think that this is opportunistic chicanery of the worst kind. We build, supply and service much of their national maritime fleets FOC, bring skilled and unskilled workers into Australia as well as providing scholarships programmes for students and more.

We have long known the difficulties in rationalising the international and domestic behaviour of China. It is time to call this nonsense out.

(Kevin Byrne enjoys an intimate association with the Melanesian and Northern Australia region through military, government and industry appointments spanning 40 years. He is a former four term Mayor of Cairns giving him a unique insight into the policy development challenges the region faces)

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