Solomon Islands politician critical of China relations ousted as Malaita premier

Under Suidani, Malaita province rejected China-funded projects but US assistance was slow to produce results.
By Gina Maka’a for BenarNews
2023.02.07
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands politician critical of China relations ousted as Malaita premier Daniel Suidani, who was ousted as premier of Malaita province in the Solomon Islands on Tuesday, gestures during an interview with BenarNews in the provincial capital Auki on Nov. 21, 2022.
Stephen Wright/BenarNews

A Solomon Islands politician who was critical of the government’s embrace of China was ousted as premier of Malaita province on Tuesday.

Daniel Suidani faced a motion of no confidence in Malaita’s provincial assembly after being accused of misappropriating funds. Before the vote, supporters of Suidani marched through the provincial capital Auki, video posted online showed.

The Solomon Islands Minister for Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening, Rollen Seleso, said nominations for a new Malaita premier will be open for two days from Wednesday and police will maintain a strong presence in Auki.

“I want to assure the Malaita Province public that high visibility of police presence will be in Auki until the election of the new premier,” he said.

The Solomon Islands, a country of some 700,000 people, has become a hot spot in the U.S.-China competition for influence with economically lagging Pacific island nations. 

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s government switched its diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 2019. Last year it signed a security pact with Beijing that has been followed by a Chinese police presence in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara, training for local police and the donation of vehicles and water cannons. Neither country has released the text of the agreement. 

China, along with countries such as Australia and Indonesia, is helping to bankroll the Pacific Games in Honiara in November. 

Under Suidani, Malaita’s provincial assembly opposed the diplomatic switch to Beijing and issued its Auki Communiqué banning China-funded projects in Malaita despite the island’s crumbling roads, rickety bridges and threadbare health system.

Suidani touted benefits from a U.S. development aid project in the province, but it has been slow to produce tangible results.

Malaita’s Deputy Premier Glen Waneta in October criticized Malaita’s refusal to accept Huawei mobile towers that would help improve spotty communications on the island. 

Peter Kenilorea, a member of the Solomon Islands parliament, said on Facebook last month that moves against Suidani’s government appeared to be a scheme involving “players” at the provincial and national levels. 

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news organization.

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.