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Solomons PM Defends His Foreign Minister

Published: Wed 18 Oct 2000 12:50 AM
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By Duran Angiki
GIZO, Solomon Islands (WP): Conflicting statements from the Solomon Islands Prime Minister over the secret visit by his foreign affairs minister to Beijing has kept people in the dark over the government's real position.
Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, late last week issued a media statement warning that he had not ruled out “removing the minister.”
The statement was in response to Foreign Minister Danny Philip abandoning an official visit to Taiwan on arrival in Brisbane.
Instead of meeting the Taiwan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Wu Tze-dan, Philip flew to Hong Kong and secretly held talks with middlemen reportedly of mainland China.
Following the embarrassment to the Taiwan government, the Prime Minister warned of taking action against his minister.
Sogavare later assured the Republic of China’s delegation in the Solomon Islands national capital, Honiara, of the country’s allegiance to Taiwan.
But while the diplomatic debacle was prolonged due to Sogavare’s earlier promise to summon the minister to explain his trip, the prime minister defended his minister’s action.
In a media report on Monday, the Solomons Prime Minister said: “We have exhausted all discussions with Taiwan so we have decided to go elsewhere.”
A Solomon Islands government spokesman said the minister has been negotiated with mainland China’s middlemen for a financial package of US$200 million.
The spokesman said the Prime Minister has been desperate to find financial sources to bail out the government from its current financial woes caused by the 21-ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal Island.
“We are kept in the dark about this whole issue,” said a spokesman in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Honiara.
“The PM is handling the issue now and we don’t really know the government position as of this afternoon.”
The cabinet has been holding several meetings with the minister until yesterday but no official statement has been released about the outcome.
Director of the Solomon Islands Government Information Unit, Alfred Maesulia, said the government would still retain its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.
The cabinet had found that the minister of foreign affairs had only reached Hong Kong and not Beijing as earlier reported by the local and overseas media.
He said the government might not change Philip as the minister of foreign affairs, but if it retained him, it would not send him on any official visit to Taiwan.
+++niuswire

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