There’s a concern there may be trouble ahead in the Solomon Islands as the ruling Government seeks to delay next year’s election.
MP Peter Kenilorea, a key member of the opposition and son of the Solomon Islands’ first Prime Minister, says he believes there will be “boots on [the] ground” from the Chinese to help the Government push through a controversial bill.
He says there’s widespread opposition to the legislation and the worry is that the secret security agreement with China will be used which allows the Government to call on China for police and military help.
“When you have the backing of a country that also doesn’t respect democratic processes then you are very good bedfellows and you support each other’s agenda. The security agreement is good for Beijing but not good for us but where it is good it allows this Government to use it to push their own agenda,” he said.
1News asked Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare for an interview but he declined.
In downtown Honiara, the extensive Chinese-funded construction certainly stands out, with seven major sports facilities being built for next year’s Pacific Games.
They include a ten thousand seat stadium, aquatic, centre and tennis centre.
But there are concerns about how the large venues will be maintained after the Pacific Games, and what the projects mean for the country.
Kenilorea says Solomon Islands sovereignty is now a doormat that has been stepped on by the PRC.
“Nothing is for free so for me this is a big concern…what are they getting from putting up these infrastructures that we don’t know about, what are the backroom deals that have made those infrastructures possible,” he said.
It’s understood much of the equipment and materials for the Chinese-funded projects are coming through, Leeroy Jetty, owned by a local Chinese businessman. 1News filmed containers belonging to Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group being offloaded.
The Solomon Islands Ports Authority says vessels are deliberately using the jetty to avoid port and other charges.
In a statement, it questioned why relevant authorities are turning a blind eye and allowing the jetty to continue international operations.
Massey University security specialist Dr Anna Powles says there’s been concern that the wharf has been used to bring in both people and goods.
The consignment of replica weapons for police training from China was one example, raising anxiety in the capital Honiara at the time because of the lack of transparency around the shipment.
“It’s absolutely a lack of transparency, it’s both a lack of transparency about the way in which goods are being brought in, but also what is being brought in,” she said.