Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has launched an extraordinary attack on the Albanese government, blasting Australia’s offer to subsidise the nation’s elections as “an assault on our parliamentary democracy”.
Sogavare, who is seeking to delay next year’s scheduled elections by seven months, said Australia’s offer of financial assistance constituted “direct interference by a foreign government in our domestic affairs”.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is seeking to delay his nation’s elections.Credit:AP
Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced on Tuesday the government had formally offered to help fund Solomon Islands’ elections, saying Australia has a longstanding commitment to promoting democracy throughout the Pacific.
Sogavare’s broadside follows his signing earlier this year of a controversial security pact with China and a recent decision to temporarily ban naval vessels from countries such as the United States from docking in the country.
The Solomons leader is set to visit Australia in coming weeks and meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Sogavare said the timing of Wong’s announcement ahead of an upcoming vote in the Solomons’ parliament on delaying the elections was “inappropriate”.
“The bill is set for the elected members of parliament to debate and vote on as required by the Constitution of Solomon Islands and NOT the Australian government to influence,” the government said in a statement.
“The timing of the public media announcement by the Australian government is in effect a strategy to influence how members of parliament will vote on this bill … This is an assault on our parliamentary democracy and is a direct interference by a foreign interference into our domestic affairs.”
Solomon Islands’ government said it had expressed its concerns about the federal government’s conduct to the Australian high commission in the capital, Honiara.
Sogavare has claimed the elections, held every four years, need to be delayed until 2024 because the Solomon Islands does not have the resources to host the Pacific Games and conduct a poll in the same time period.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Australia has a longstanding commitment to promoting democracy in the Pacific. Credit:Alex Ellinghuasen
Solomon Islands Opposition Leader Matthew Wale savaged the move as an orchestrated “power grab” designed to allow Sogavare to avoid a verdict by his nation’s voters.
Sogavare requires the support of two-thirds of the parliament to change the Solomons Constitution and delay the election. He is expected to have the numbers.
Wong said Australia’s offer to provide financial assistance to the Solomons reflected “a reasonably common approach that Australian governments have made over years”.
“It reflects our longstanding and historical commitment to supporting democracy and democratic processes in Solomon Islands, and we’ve previously offered support and we are offering support again,” she told ABC radio.
Wong, who visited Solomon Islands in one of her first overseas trips following Labor’s election victory, said she welcomed Sogavare’s recent assurances that Australia remained his country’s “security partner of choice”.
Sogavare told his parliament this week Australia and New Zealand were exempt from a temporary ban on foreign ships entering his nation’s ports.
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