BY ALFRED SASAKO
PRIME Minister Rick Houenipwela leaves for Australia today – his second visit in as many months – this time to sign the tripartite agreement on the undersea cable linking Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea with Australia.
He and his PNG counterpart Prime Minister Peter O’Neil would meet Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Brisbane on Wednesday.
There, they will sign the multi-million dollar Project, which Canberra snatched from China’s telco giant, Huawei, in a decision which has angered Beijing.
The involvement at Prime Ministerial level shows how highly politicised the project has become.
A spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet told Island Sun yesterday Prime Minister Houenipwela would leave for Brisbane later today (Tuesday).
He will return on Thursday after signing the undersea cable, which Australia promised would provide cheaper and faster internet service to the 12 percent or so of Solomon Islands’ working population.
This week’s visit is Prime Minister Houenipwela’s second in as many months. He visited Canberra, Brisbane and Bundaberg last June.
During that visit both he and Prime Minister Turnbull discuss the fibre optic project covering more than 4,000km linking the two Pacific neighbours via undersea cable with Australia.
Australia had been wary of Chinese company Huawei lining up to build the Solomon Islands’ cables and elbowed it out of the way because of strategic concerns, according to Australian media reports.
Canberra will pick up two thirds of the cost of the project. Money to pay for the project would come from Australia’s aid budget.