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Australia's military will be providing logistics support to the Solomon Islands as it prepares to hold it's first election since the departure of the Regional Assistance Mission.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said Australia has responded to a Solomon Islands' request with around 200 defence force personnel and assets, including four helicopters.
“Australia's support to the election demonstrates our commitment to responding to our neighbours request for assistance,” he said.
The support is similar to what Australia provided to Papua New Guinea for its 2017 elections, when it also sent around 200 personnel.
Chief Electoral Officer, Mose Saitala welcomed the support which he said would help Solomon Islands deliver a free and fair election.
A potential challenge is bad weather, as illustrated by the impact Cyclone Trevor has had on neighbouring Papua New Guinea this week.
But Saitala said the support would help the Commission overcome any weather-related adversities.
“We have already here two choppers from New Zealand, another four from the Australian Government, they should be able to help us access [remote] polling stations. We also have support from HMAS Melville, it should be able to help us to access our outer islands.”
As the clock ticks down to polling day, and campaigning escalates around the country, Mr Saitala said he's not anticipating any security problems.
He said potential hot spots were identified during voter registration last year and the Electoral Commission is working closely with the police to monitor these areas.
“We'll be sharing information and intelligence where problems might be coming up so that there is a swift response by police officers,” Saitala said.
On Tuesday, caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou updated local media on election preparations, with the announcement of 1,041 polling stations across the country.
He said pre-polling would be carried out for the first time ahead of the election.
"Thursday 21 March has been selected by the Electoral Commission as the pre-polling day as many of our police officers and electoral commission workers will cast their votes in Honiara and in provincial centres."
Solomon Islanders will head to the polls on April 3 to elect their 50 members of Parliament.
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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