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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

For want of wisdom in Solomons

The Solomon Islands is in turmoil - yes, again.
NEWSFLASH: 12:27pm Wed 26/04/2006
NZ Herald reports:

Snyder Rini has resigned as prime minister of the Solomon Islands, the AAP news agency reported this morning.
The Associated Press reported Rini told members of parliament he was quitting "so all MPs can come together so this country can go forward."
Rini stepped down shortly before he was due to face the biggest test of his fledgling Administration - a confidence vote in Parliament.
Parliament will now vote in a secret ballot for a replacement to Rini.
People were rejoincing in the streets at the news, Newstalk ZB reported.
A Solomons radio presenter told the station that Mr Rini faced defeat in the no confidence motion when he arrived in Parliament today.
He went out for 15 minutes to consider his position and, when he returned, announced his resignation.

National Radio has just had the Solomons Director of Govt. Communications saying that five on the govt. side including 4 Ministers went over to sit with the opposition when parliament opened! Maybe Rini forgot to appoint a whip? He will continue as caretaker.

Not so sure about the secret ballot procedure.
NZ Herald reports the real foreign minister Defence Minister wants a firewalk:
Mr Goff plans to arrive on Thursday, the day after a no-confidence motion is due to determine whether Snyder Rini has retained the numbers over the past week to form a Government.
"Mob rule simply isn't going to be tolerated and those that engage in it will find that there are consequences," Mr Goff said last night.
"It's important to get the message across that the rule of law applies to those who are governed and those who are in Government alike. The new Government is going to have to work very hard to ensure that they do win public confidence, that they are working for all Solomon Islanders and not for a few."

Wagging fingers at the locals might make sense to the aloof cocktail officianados at MFAT. Their manifest and multitudinous failings have been highlighted before with regard to their policy of endemic neglect. But when our armed forces are detaining opposition MPs, holding the nose of a country so it can take it's IMF/Australian medicine and protecting the interests of corrupt politicians and businessmen then to many Goff's visit will be salt in the wound. It's supposed to be "helpem fren" not "arrestem fren" or "Jailem MP"

Stuff reports in a tone tweaked a bit higher:
Zero tolerance for violence in Solomons
"It's certainly not our intention to meddle in what their political process legitimately puts up," Mr Goff said.
He said a worst case scenario could have involved a raid on the police armoury and freeing of people currently locked up on criminal charges.

Well we can't have that. But the following item may put that claim in context - and after the arrests of MPs many are scratching their heads. Reading the Maps' analysis:
When mainly Australian and New Zealand troops occupied the Solomons under the banner of RAMSI in 2003 the country was in the grip of a crisis that had been manufactured in the offices of the International Monetary Fund. Under pressure from the Australian and New Zealand governments, the Solomons had implemented IMF 'reforms' that devastated its economy and profoundly destabilised its society. RAMSI's occupation has only exacerbated the crisis.
In the two and three quarter years it has occupied the Solomons, the RAMSI force has made it abundantly clear that it acts on behalf of the Pacific's big states and international capital, not on behalf of the people of the Solomons. Like the army occupying Iraq, RAMSI's soldiers are exempted from prosecution or even investigation under Solomons law. They have authority over the Solomons' own police force. Soon after landing in the Solomons RAMSI had begun making sweeping arrests - by the anniversary of the occupation it had detained 700 people, most of whom had not faced any sort of trial. In August 2004 eighty of these detainees staged a rebellion at Rove Prison in Honiara. After breaking out of their cells and overpowering guards, the prisoners shouted slogans condemning their 'inhuman treatment'. Most had been held in solitary confinement for a year. Despite the protest, hundreds of people are still detained without trial in the Solomons.

RAMSI has also felt free to intimidate the population of the Solomons and over-rule the country's government whenever it has felt the interests of international capital have been threatened. In March 2004, for instance, the Solomons' remaining public sector workers voted to stage a national strike to demand a pay rise. In an effort to avert a strike, the Solomons government announced a meagre increase of 2.5%. RAMSI's response was swift: the head of the Solomon Islands Public Employees Union was summouned by RAMSI staff to the Australian embassy, where he was warned that he was 'destabilising' the country. Shortly afterwards a RAMSI representative handed the same union leader a written warning that if he did not revoke the pay claim Australian aid to the Solomons would be suspended. Eventually the union capitulated.

Yeah, sure it may have been ripped off a lefty site, but if it was us under that sort of outside pressure and intrusion wouldn't we feel, slightly, angry? And Richard Prebble agrees,(which was also noted by this Brisbane paper) with the over-zealous policing angle at least:
Aussie caused riot
The Solomon government both illegally and legally bribes MPs to support the PM. Last election the average bribe was Solomon $40,000, eagerly accepted by MPs broke from having over spent on their campaigns.
The legal bribery is a cabinet of 19 for a parliament of just 50 MPs! The Taiwan government generously funds politicians to keep recognition. It is the logging companies keen to keep the unsustainable logging of rain forests doing the serious bribery. Aussie Federal Police firing tear gas at a peaceful demonstration caused the riot. There is very little anti Chinese feeling.
Most Chinese were born in the Solomon's, speak pidgin and are Solomon citizens.
The crowd was outraged and the riot spontaneous. Canberra should hold a proper inquiry and then pay, in the Solomon way, compensation.

And after the Palm Island riots and the charming way the Aussie police, judiciary and administration treat Aboriginals before and after (with the media completely avoiding the before, ie. cause bit) it was probably only a matter of time before the Aussie tactics in the Solomons would degenerate into a Palm Island x100. The Aussie tactic is to never think about what has caused the problem (because it is probably them!) and instead pour in troops armed to the teeth and start putting a bit of stick about. Mungo like bash! Bash, bash bash! Mungo like!

And the Aussie media (online at least) aren't really giving the Solomons melt-down any priority in their coverage despite the human and political investment. At least their coverage gives some details. Some very disturbing and unsettling details that cast a cloud over the Aussie handling of the (or should I say their) judiciary. 9MSN:
Opposition MPs accused police of doing the government's bidding by only arresting and charging three of the opposition MPS, two of them in custody and unable to attend a debate of no-confidence in new Prime Minister Snyder Rini scheduled for Wednesday.
Bartholomew Ulafa'alu told the house that "police should not be interfering in the normal workings of parliament".
"They are not criminals, only suspects. They should allow them to do their job in parliament."

Fair point wouldn't you say? The Labour party never had Shane Ardern arrested and imprisoned before he was tried for his parliamentary tractor protest:

When opposition MPs walked out of the 50-member house, Rini's 25 government MPs voted in former prime minister Allan Kemakeza as deputy speaker.
Down the hill at the Magistrates Court, Dausabea sat dejected in the barred dock as Magistrate Kieran Boothman rejected his defence counsel's argument that he should consider the political risks of refusing his client bail.
The no-confidence vote is scheduled for Wednesday but with the opposition two down on numbers, it might withdraw the motion rather than risk losing it and having to wait another 12 months before being able to table another such motion.
Magistrate Boothman noted the prosecution alleged Dausabea spoke in Pidgin to about 200 people in front of parliament telling them to go and do what they liked after Rini was voted in as PM.

"I'm satisfied that the risk of allowing the defendant to go free would be too great in the present tinder box situation of Honiara," Boothman said.

Now Keiran being an Aussie a name as Dinky-di Abo-killer Cobber Bluey I'm not really going out on that long of a limb to assume that Magistrate Boothman is an Aussie. (The Police Commissioner is an Aussie too). Now he's already made that call that he's guilty and that he is taking the political situation into account in locking him up. Doesn't he understand that doing this is more likely to activate a tinderbox? It's hypocritical in the extreme to mention politics and then dismiss political realities in a 25-25 deadlocked parliament, pre-judge a man, an MP, as guilty (of saying do as you like apparently) and exclude him from the democratic process - especially in light of his other comments reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:
The magistrate, Kieren Boothman, remanded the MP, Nelson Ne'e, in custody until May 8, [...] Ne'e was charged with managing an unlawful society of 10 or more people and incitement to cause harm as well as intimidation of Anna Nuaiasi, wife of a government MP [...]
But Mr Boothman said: "The court does not recognise that. It is just another day in Honiara. I am not interested in politics. I am interested in the law."
Mr Boothman said it was likely the rampage of arson and looting that destroyed a large part of the capital last week was "directed" at the Chinatown district after advance planning.
"It is not a political game when buildings are burning in the street," he said.

Well, there's that Magistrate mouthing off again about supposedly not caring for politics and yet siding with one group, assuming guilt and making musings about how things were planned. This just sounds extraordinary. If I was an opposition supporter I would assume a breakdown in the judiciary had occured and that the police force was politicised and out of control. Since the foreigners are doing all this I would, therefore, want the foreigners to leave. John Howard's appointment and support of a paedophile-helping Governor-General doesn't really give you much confidence in who he appoints to other jurisdictions does it. And then there is Iraq.

And finally Indymedia has a fascinating rundown on the who's who and why's and wherefores in the drama:
There have been allegations that powerful businessmen – mostly Chinese, or waku as they are known in Solomon Islands – pay large sums of money to Members of Parliament in order to ensure that any government that was formed served their interests.

In last yesterday’s election for Prime Minister there were three candidates who tussled to win the allegiances of the fifty members of parliament. They were Job Dudley Tausinga who was nominated by the Grand Coalition, Snyder Rini nominated by the Association of Independent Members of Parliament (IMP) and Peoples Alliance Party (PAP) coalition, and Manasseh Sogavare who led the Social Credit Party.
But, it was Sogavare who tipped the number scales towards Snyder Rini’s camp. After losing the nomination for the Prime Minister candidacy to Tausinga, he deserted the Grand Coalition, pulled a couple of Members of Parliament with him and formed his own group.

There were allegations that he was bankrolled by some Asian logging companies and prominent businessmen like Bobo Dettki and Robert Goh who were concerned that a Tausinga-led government would not serve their interests.

Rini, on the other hand had the support of Tommy Chan, a wealthy ethnic Chinese businessman who is also the president of the Association of Independent Members of Parliament (AIMP) and who owns the Honiara Hotel where the AIMP/PAP group camped in the lead up to the election of the Prime Minister.

Because of these connections it has been alleged that some members of parliament deserted the Grand Coalition after having been offered, or paid large sums of money by those with deep pockets and connections in the shady corridors of Solomon Islands business world. Former Prime Minister, Francis Billy Hilly, for instance, claims that some parliamentarians were offered between SI$30,000 and SI$50,000 to abandon the Grand Coalition. This, of course, has not been verified.

The protest against Rini’s election as Prime Minister was, therefore, a result of widespread public perceptions that Asian – especially Chinese – businessmen bribed Members of Parliament into supporting Rini and the ‘old guard’ who served their interests.

Rini’s history of close relationship with these businessmen did not help. When he was Minister for Finance, for example, he gave many of them tax exemptions that cost Solomon Islands millions of dollars in potential revenue.

So, basically it's a fucking basket case. And the brains of the operation are the Aussies... Haiti anyone?


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