Churches remain silent on Sino-SI security pact

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TWO umbrella bodies of churches in the country are still to make their stand over the controversial security Pact with China.

Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) and Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association (SIFGA) have not issued any statement after Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele signed the Pact on 30 March 2022.

SIFGA told Island Sun it cannot make any informed stand until it sees the texts of the pact.

SICA, on the other hand, says it is still to meet to make a stand on this national issue.

However, there is confusion amongst the people of the Solomon Islands regarding the security pact with China, as details of the deal still remain unknown to the public.

Some still believe China will build a military base under the security agreement.

One tribal leader has shown concern that land belonging to his people could be taken away.

A chief of the Niteni tribe in the Rennell and Bellona province, Richard Pautangata, said his biggest concern was that people did not know what the deal encompassed.

Pautangata said there were fears that the treaty would allow China to establish a military base in Solomon Islands.

He said he was not sure which province would allow for that but suspects his province could be a target for China.

He said 70 per cent of land on Rennell Island was owned by the Solomon Islands Government, and most of it was leased to an Asian logging and mining company, Asia Pacific Investment Development.

Pautangata said despite the number of logging and mining activities on the island, not all landowners benefited.

He fears the geographical location of his island could see it being targeted.

Premier of the Malaita province, Daniel Suidani, said the treaty raised a lot of concerns.

Most in the province of Malaita are opposed to the Sogovare leadership and feel that the deal may allow the leader to engage Chinese police to extend his reign.

“I see the risks already of our new friend because we are not ready to stand on their ideology,” he said.

“Even Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States have expressed their concern of the security treaty.”

Malaita Province Youth Council are also concerned. Much of this has to do with not knowing what the deal will allow the government to do.

“We should not allow our place for military base. We are too small to create conflicts between superpowers,” the Council said.

“The youths are the future of the country and the government should have consulted with them first.”

However, Foreign Minister Manele told Parliament recently that the Government has nothing to hide.

He said this is a bilateral agreement and there is a confidentiality clause that ought to be respected.

“We will discuss this matter with the other Party, China,” he said.

Manele added the security agreement with China reaffirms respect for Solomon Islands sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

He said the security agreement reinforces the foundation for peace, security and development.

“Security agreement are meant to grow peace through development.

“It builds bridges of confidence, and remove sources of danger so that our people can keep investing to improve their quality of lives.

“It gives confidence to business houses and allows the nation of Solomon Islands to prosper,” he added.