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Solomon Opposition calls on government to provide report on China trip
11:34 pm GMT+12, 24/06/2019, Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands deputy leader of Opposition Peter Kenilorea Jnr has called on the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to publicly disclose findings of the delegation that visited China recently.
The call follows concerns raised by the public on the China trip undertaken by a government delegation.

In a statement, the Deputy Opposition Leader stressed that it is not unusual for any country to consider entering into bilateral ties with other countries especially when economic benefits can be gained, or to take technical trips.
“In this case however, the visit and its purpose were clouded with confusion and controversy which raised a lot more questions than clear answers. The recent explanation by the Prime Minister fell short of appeasing these concerns,” the Deputy Leader said.
He said with the delegation now back in the country, it is important that the outcomes of their survey be explained outlining the plans, if any, on how the situation on the pricing of logs are to be implemented to improve the situation on log pricing in our logging industry.
The Deputy leader also pointed out that people want to know why two Ministers of the crown had to lead the delegation that was a technical delegation on a technical mission.
Kenilorea said its normal diplomatic practice when government ministers lead delegations to another country, these are premised on government to government dealings and that usually Ministers only travel on official government trips upon invitation from the government or arrangements made between governments.
In the recent trip, it is not clear who invited the two ministers and whether official invitations were made through usual diplomatic channels - a matter which is complicated by the fact that Solomon Islands has no diplomatic ties with China.
The Deputy Leader said the Prime Minister had explained the trip was a technical one intended for the delegation to learn on the ground, which clearly means that matters for discussion are operational in nature hence, only need technical people responsible.
He also pointed out that it is rather surprising the delegation, including the Ministers of the crown had easily obtained Chinese Visas to Beijing knowing full well that Solomon Islands recognises Taipei.
“In normal practice it would be difficult to obtain visas for government officials and Ministers to travel to China unless of course such a visit is by invitation from Beijing.
“Again, this is an important point to be explained by the Prime Minister. In a recent publication, it was reported that one of the Minister’s also took a trip to China early this year before the General elections.
“Any connections between these trips must also be explained,” Kenilorea insisted.

He said it was also surprising that the Prime Minister and his government would accept funding from the Solomon Islands Forestry Association (SFA) in what was billed as a jointly funded visit by SIG and SFA.

The SFA is a body comprised of all logging companies currently operating in Solomon Islands, and these companies are the direct beneficiaries of the low price of Solomon Islands logs for export set by the determined price.
“It is therefore confusing as to whether this organisation or even their buyers in China would be serious about allowing Solomon Islands to scale down on logging or; to increase the determined price.

The Opposition then goes on to say, it also does not make sense for Solomon Islands to visit China if it wants to conduct an on the ground survey as the Prime Minister puts it.
“We own the logs so we should be calling the shots from this end. We do not have to understand the buyer’s economic situation to determine how our government should set the price for our product.
“By going to the Chinese importers and talking to them on their turf is only exposing our officials to undue pressure and compromises the stated objective of the trip,” the statement noted.
“This call for disclosure on the findings of this trip should be heeded by the government and Prime Minister as the people of this nation who are the resources owners of the forestry products and logs have a right to know” the Deputy Leader added.


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