It was rumoured that Prime Minister Sogavare would be arrested on arrival in Honiara yesterday, after Australian police kicked down the door to the PM’s office and seized a fax machine that allegedly contained a document used to get embattled Attorney-General Julian Moti into the country. But Solomon Islands police commissioner, Australian Shane Castles, was at the airport to greet, not arrest, the PM yesterday, where the two shook hands, despite the fact that Sogavare has said he wants to replace Castles with someone local or regional, and announced he will cut the commissioner’s pay.

And the PM was still throwing punches yesterday as he returned home from a stormy Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Fiji.  “RAMSI is supposed to be a regional assistance mission to the Solomon islands, not an Australian assistance mission to the Solomon islands,” he told Crikey. RAMSI has “become more an AMSI”, he said. “That’s the problem.”

The raid on the PM’s office, on order of Sogavare’s own police commissioner, Australian Shane Castles, has further strained relations between Australia and the Solomon Islands.  That the acting police commissioner is an Australian Federal Policeman does not bode well for claims by John Howard in Fiji that Australia had nothing to do with the raid on Sogavare’s office and have no control over police decisions in the Solomon Islands.

“There is a serious concern when you have one country dominating RAMSI, and very important institutions as well – courts, police,” said Sogavare yesterday. “You can almost read collusion at the highest level. And [they are] acting in the best interest of [those] who pay them.”

Sogavare refused to be drawn on whether he still wanted controversial lawyer Julian Moti as his attorney-general. But he took the opportunity to point out Australia’s hypocrisy in the so-called Moti affair.

“Julian Moti became an issue only when we appointed him Attorney-General. When we appointed [former High Court judge] Marcus Einfeld to head the commission of inquiry [into the April Honiara riots], Australians shot him down because of a $77 fine.”

“Then when we appointed Moti Attorney-General, he was also heavily involved in the commission of inquiry, they shot him down too. Despite the fact that a Vanuatu court essentially cleared him already…I see a very interesting trend,” he said. “I bet you, if we remove Moti tomorrow he will be history.”

Marni Cordell is currently in Honiara on assignment for New Matilda.

Peter Fray

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