By Alfred Sasako
THE Minister for Civil Aviation and Communications, Peter Shanel, yesterday became the first casualty of travel restrictions announced by Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela earlier this week.
Hon Shanel was on his way to Mainland China, when he was recalled. Details of the visit including whether it was cleared by the Office of the Prime Minister were not immediately clear.
Sources told Island Sun yesterday the visit was supposed to be a first by a Government Minister from Solomon Islands, which does not have diplomatic relations with Beijing.
But Hon Shanel’s recall was not without a hand from Taiwan.
Sources close to the government confirmed last night that Hon Shanel’s immediate recall followed an intervention by the Embassy of Taiwan in Honiara, demanding that the Minister be recalled.
Prime Minister Houenipwela succumbed.
“There’s a lot at stake so the government has no choice but to recall the Minister,” the sources said.
They said Taiwan’s decision to help foot the bill for hosting the South Pacific Games in 2023 and a proposed visit to Taiwan by the Prime Minister in April are reasons enough to convince Prime Minister Houenipwela to order Minister Shanel’s recall.
Hon Shanel was said to be in Brisbane, on his way home.
On Monday Prime Minister Houenipwela announced a raft of measures including a clampdown on overseas travels by government ministers in a move to cut costs.
But the measures are being seen by many as politically suicidal with others suggesting there would be backlash.
Hon Shanel’s recall signals the potential to remove him from a new ministerial line-up believed to be under active consideration.