Solomon Islands Crisis Continues

Last week the Solomon Islands government declared the Australian high commissioner in Honiara persona non grata, forcing him to leave the country. Australia responded to the expulsion by imposing a visa requirement on Solomon Islands members of parliament and threatening to cut back on Australian aid to the country.

According to Solomon Islands officials, High Commissioner Patrick Cole was booted out because he was attempting to halt the work of a Commission of Inquiry the Solomons government had set up to look into the causes of the April rioting in Honiara. At the time of the rioting, Australian members of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) were accused of provoking the violence by firing tear gas into a restive but still peaceful crowd. The extent of involvement of Australian RAMSI members with corrupt Honiara businessmen and politicians prior to the rioting is still not known. It's not surprising that Mr. Cole and Australian prime minister John Howard should feel uncomfortable having the activities of their officials in Honiara investigated, hence the intense lobbying to have the inquiry quashed.

At last report, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was standing up to the Australian pressure. Cole's persona non grata status would remain in effect and the Commission of Inquiry would continue its work. The findings of the commission should make interesting reading.

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