The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands has asserted that China will “fill the gap” in the problematic budget of his country after Australia and other conventional development partners unexpectedly withdrew millions of dollars in funding that they had previously committed.
Although the Albanese government immediately denied the claim, Manasseh Sogavare once again condemned Australia and the United States for criticizing his country’s policing pact with China. He said that while Australian and other Pacific police forces were his country’s “partner of choice,” China was a welcomed additional security ally.
“The flight time from China to land forces here in the United States is only nine hours,” he claimed.
The Australian government has stated that there has been no development financing reduction. “Australia has delivered on our budget support commitments,” a representative for the Australian government told the reporters.
A four-time prime minister with a tumultuous relationship with Australia, Sogavare addressed a rare press conference at the Honiara airport soon after returning from a week-long visit to China. In the briefing, he criticized Australia for its treatment of the Solomon Islands.
He stated that China had agreed to patch the Solomon Islands’ ailing budget for this year. He chastised the country’s traditional aid partners, specifically Australia and New Zealand, for agreeing to cover the shortfall but then reneging on their commitments to do so. He said China had agreed to patch the Solomon Islands’ ailing budget for this year.
“Some of our donor partners who have committed to providing budget support to us this year have since changed their position and delayed their assistance for us, and as a result, we are struggling to finance the 2023 budget,” he added. “Some of our donor partners have since changed their position and delayed their assistance for us.”
“As a result of this, both the country and its people are in a difficult situation. However, I am happy and thrilled to say that the People’s Republic of China has really stepped up to offer the necessary fiscal support for the year 2023.
According to Sogavare, China is contributing in the areas of health, agriculture, and sports, as well as in the construction of infrastructure and the fight against climate change.
He stated that China may “very well be the answer to – not all, but most of our challenges,” but that the Solomon Islands needs to break away from the “yoke” of being dependent on outside assistance.
“I will not permit our people to continue to live in a position of dependency indefinitely. We have to free ourselves from the chains and yoke of dependence… It is time for us to take control of our own lives.”
According to Sogavare, the Solomon Islands’ traditional allies and partners do not need to be concerned about the developing relationship that the Solomon Islands have with China or any other country.
“The Solomon Islands do not have any foes; they only have friends. Our greatest challenge is to advance. We extend the hand of goodwill to all nations and seek sincere cooperation and partnership with them.
The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade of Australia issued a statement saying that no development assistance had been removed. The statement read, “Australia has delivered on our budget support commitments to the Solomon Islands this year.”
“This help has been offered in a wide variety of fields in the Solomon Islands, including the electoral process, the education system, and the health care system. According to a spokeswoman for our organization, “We continue to discuss development and budget support needs with the Solomon Islands government.”
The previous year, Australia contributed approximately $40 million to help finance the budget, including for areas such as health, education, and Covid recovery. Additionally, Australia has pledged $25 million in election support in addition to $16.7 million for the Pacific Games.
The condemnation of Australia and the United States for their concerns over a policing partnership between the Solomon Islands and China was also reinforced in Sogavare’s statements, which were first reported by the media.
“The limited and forceful diplomatic approach of targeting China-Solomon Islands relations, and I want to use this word, is, and I want to use this word, unneighborly… According to what he had to say, this was nothing more than intervention from other states in the internal affairs of Solomon Islands.
“China is not responsible for the invasion or colonization of any other nation-state. The United States and Australia need not be concerned about receiving backing from China’s police.
After long-simmering social tensions on the archipelago’s main islands exploded into violence in 2003, the Australian police forces led the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (Ramsi), also known as Operation Helpem Fren. Ramsi was a component of the United Nations Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Sogavare levelled criticism at the Ramsi mission, which had been active in the Solomon Islands until 2017, arguing that it was dominated by Australia and that it compromised Solomon Islands’ sovereignty.
Australia also sent defence force members and federal police to Honiara in 2021 to calm anti-government rioting.
Nevertheless, Sogavare emphasized Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific nations will continue to be the “partner of choice” for Solomon Islands’ security, and he stated that he would call on these nations first for assistance if there was another outbreak of violence.
“We have a standing, a present arrangement with Siaf (Solomon Islands Assistance Forces) with Australia, New Zealand, PNG, and Fiji; however, now we’ll need to communicate with them, as we have been constant in maintaining that they are our partner of choice… First, we have to get in touch with them,” he explained.
However, Sogavare stated that his nation now had a “standing arrangement” with China as well, and he added that in the event that there were delays in the arrival of other forces in the Solomon Islands, “it takes only nine hours’ flight from China to land forces here.”
“There is nothing that will prevent me from doing that, even if there are some bumps in the road along the way.”
“We are able to make use of our various security arrangements. This independent nation is unstoppable, and nothing can stand in its way.