By EDDIE OSIFELO
A multi-million dollar base will be established at Kulitana Bay in Shortland Islands to accommodate police, health, customs and immigration officers.
This is part of the effort to monitor the international border between Bougainville and Solomon Islands from illegal crossings.
Australia High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Dr Lachlan Strahan confirmed this in a press conference after the signing of a funding agreement yesterday.
A total of $71 million is given by Australia government to Solomon Islands where, $44 million goes towards Health Sector to reinforce preparation for the coronavirus and $27 million to the recent launched Economic Stimulus Package.
Dr Strahan said Australia Defence Force engineers in Canberra are working on the design of the base already.
He said the budget for the base is a separate funding.
Island Sun reporter, Alfred Sasako stated in his article in August 7 2019 that a Naval Base proposal was first mooted by the Danny Philip Administration in 2010/2011.
Sasako said Canberra rejected the proposal after the head of a political party in the then Philip coalition government suggested the Sterling Island facility should be turned into a refugee processing centre.
Insiders told Island Sun China’s growing influence in the Pacific has forced Canberra’s hands to reconsider its initial position.
On June 3, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Solomon Islands counterpart, Manasseh Sogavare said:
“In line with our bilateral security treaty, we commit to deeper cooperation on defence and security. Australia is providing technical assistance to help Solomon Islands develop a border security strategy, which will be used to inform possible future collaboration in this area.
“Australia is also pleased to provide infrastructure and communications upgrades to existing police outposts in the western border region.
“This support will be provided in accordance with the Solomon Islands’ three-phased approach to strengthening surveillance, response capability and protection of the country’s western border.”