By Sarah C. LaBelle
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania
HONIARA, Solomon Islands – The Solomon Islands government is in turmoil this week, with nine high-level government ministers defecting to the opposition after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare shuffled his cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister Toswell Kaua resigned, along with Dr. Derrick Sikua, Steve Abana, Nollen Leni, Stanley Festus Sofu, Gordon Darcy Lilo, Sam Iduri, Mark Kemakeza, Patrick Vahoe, Peter Tom, Martin Sopage, Martin Magga, and Trevor Olovae. Lilo and Abana were terminated from their positions for “working against” Sogavare.
The resigning ministers delivered signed letters to Governor General Nathaniel Waena, which were also signed by backbenchers and members of the opposition, calling for Sogavare to resign from his position. They stated that if he would not resign, they would submit a no confidence motion. The opposition is confident that they now have the numbers to force the resignation, and consequently, that Sogavare no longer has the numbers to rule. Waena called Sogavare in, but Sogavare maintains that he has the numbers to rule.
Waena told Parliament that the issue was a political one, and that he cannot intervene unless he is certain that the elected leaders cannot overcome the political impasse. He told the press, “As Governor General, I don’t see it as a Constitutional crisis but a political crisis. They are two different things. The numbers form political crisis, therefore they are elected with a mandate from our people to sort out the political chaos.” While Waena will not recall parliament to hold a no-confidence vote, he will reconsider the situation next week if it has not been resolved.
Sogavare, however, has said that only Parliament can remove him from office, and has restated his belief that the government does still have the requisite numbers to remain in power. Transparency International reports that Sogavare is rapidly losing popular support, and the opposition is steadfast in its intent to overthrow him. The opposition has said that empty ministerial portfolios prove that the government does not have the numbers to lead.
The opposition coalition has said that if they are successful in their bid to unseat Sogavare, they will turn over current Attorney General Julian Moti to the Australian authorities, who have wanted to indict him on child sex tourism charges since the late 1990s. Sacked finance minister Gordon Lilo said that Moti is now “the most worried person” in the Solomons, and is doing everything he can to keep Sogavare in power.
Some defections this week have gone the other way, from the opposition to the government, and three of the original resigning ministers returned to the government. These moves have been followed with allegations that those defectors were bribed back to the government, which Sogavare has vehemently denied. Former Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza was rumoured to have joined with the government, though he told reporters that he was not going anywhere and that he would not do any deals.
Both sides maintain that they have the numbers to rule.
For more information, please see:
Solomon Times – Sogavare Reshuffles Cabinet Ministers – 09 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands government in crisis – 11 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomons PM says he has no details of complaints by revolting Cabinet ministers – 11 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Sogavare administration still intact, says Solomons government caucas chair – 12 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomons government claims it still has the numbers despite resignations – 12 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomons Opposition confident of removing PM, following Gov’t defections – 12 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands Prime Minister his out at his former Finance Minister – 12 November 2007
Solomon Times – New Govt Promises to Repatriate Moti – 12 November 2007
Solomon Times – Solomons Citizens Call for Government Stability – 12 November 2007
Solomon Times – Lilo, Abana Sacked for Working Against PM – 12 November 2007
Solomon Times – Only Parliament Can Vote Me Out: Sogavare – 12 November 2007
Solomon Times – Solomons Govt in Political Crisis – 12 November 2007
Islands Business – PM Sogavare says only parliament can vote him out – 12 November 2007
Islands Business – PM says deputy is ‘ring leader’ of defecting ministers wanting to oust him – 12 November 2007
Islands Business – GG summons Sogavare, Govt claims administration still in tact – 12 November 2007
Islands Business – Three government backbenchers defect opposition – 13 November 2007
Islands Business – Governor General calls on politicians to solve crisis – 13 November 2007
Islands Business – Transparency says PM losing support – 13 November 2007
Islands Business – We still have the numbers: Opposition – 13 November 2007
Pacific Islands Report (Solomon Star) – Sogavare Defiant After Solomons Resignations – 13 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomons PM faces defiant opposition – 13 November 2007
Solomon Times – Sir Nathaniel: Current Power Struggle Political Crisis – 13 November 2007
Solomon Times – We Still Have the Majority: Lilo – 13 November 2007
Solomon Times – Governor General Demands Resignation Letters – 13 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands Prime Minister says current political upheaval is over – 14 November 2007
Islands Business – Government crisis worries Moti – 15 November 2007
Sydney Morning Herald – Former Solomons PM struggling for power – 15 November 2007
Solomon Times – Sir Allan joins Grand Coalition for Change Government – 15 November 2007
Solomon Times – PM Sogavare: No Bribery Offered to Koli – 15 November 2007
Solomon Times – “The Game is Now Over”: PM Sogavare – 15 November 2007
Solomon Times – Unions Call on PM to Step Down – 16 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands opposition says empty ministerial portfolios prove PM lacks numbers – 16 November 2007
Please note that the Solomon Star has exceeded its bandwidth and is therefore not online at this time.
For more information on the Moti affair, please see the Impunity Watch reportson Moti’s appointment as attorney general for the Solomons, PNG government involvement in Moti’s escape, the Vanuatu case status, Australia’s extradition attempt and the missing PNG inquiry report, PNG court refusal to suppress the inquiry report, and Moti’s fear of assassination attempts. The inquiry report itself was released to Dade on 28 September, and he found the inquiry to be illegal at the end of October. The issue is on appeal in the PNG court system,barring public debate at this time