Four more for China

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Solomon Islands and China's flag. Photo by RNZ

Prime Minister ‘denies’ request for an audience with visiting Taiwanese youths

 

By Alfred Sasako

 

THE Office of the Prime Minister has reportedly denied a request by visiting Taiwanese youths for an audience with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, throwing a new spin on the ongoing debate over switching diplomatic ties to China.

This comes amidst reports that four Members of Parliament on the five-member bipartisan Taskforce which inquired into the matter have voluntarily moved to join the government side in support of the proposed switch to China.

“The move by the four MPs, which represent 90 per cent of Members of the Taskforce, indicates their conviction that a diplomatic switch to China is in the best interest of Solomon Islands.

“These MPs have been to Taipei as well as to Beijing as part of their investigations and it would appear they are convinced about what is best for this nation,” an insider told Island Sun last night.

The insider denied the MPs were plucked from the Opposition group.

“No, no, no. There is no truth in that. All four MPs made the choice of their own accord because of what they had witnessed during their tour of Taipei and Beijing.”

“Their move to join the Government indicates their report to be handed to the Government shortly is pretty conclusive,” the insider said, counselling caution.

“We are not quite there yet, but we will be there.”

Meanwhile officials have confirmed that a request by a visiting Taiwanese youth group to meet with Prime Minister Sogavare was denied. The group which arrived on Sunday was to meet Mr Sogavare either on Monday or Tuesday.

But it appeared no meetings took place.

Officials have downplayed the incident, adding the request was denied because there is a Youth Ministry and it is only proper that the Youth Group see the Minister for Youth.

It would appear this is the first time Prime Minister Sogavare has ever denied a request for a meeting with a visiting Taiwanese group.

Some officials have linked this to events in the past two weeks, particularly the involvement of Taiwanese diplomat, Oliver Weng, in preparing or facilitating a statement for 16 senior Government MPs including 14 Ministers declaring their support for Taiwan.

Mr Weng is the Counsellor at the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara. He emailed the two-page statement expressing support for Taiwan to both the Island Sun and Solomon Star newspapers on August 20, 2019.

Both papers published the statement on their front pages on Wednesday, August 21, 2019. Island Sun has obtained a copy of the email.

Officials said Prime Minister Sogavare had every right to feel his authority as Prime Minister of a sovereign nation has been undermined by a diplomat from a close ally.

They pointed out that the diplomat’s involvement in the scandal was tantamount to planning the overthrow of a democratically elected government.