BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
MOVE by Australia to build an undersea high-speed internet cable to Solomon Islands threatening to officially shut out China’s Huawei Technologies Co does not concern Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela.
PM Hou said he only wants good quality, efficient and effective telecommunication for Solomon Islands
Concerns are growing on Beijing’s influence in the Pacific.
During his press conference on Monday, when asked of what are some of the security issues Australia has discussed with Solomon Islands over their switch off to China from the undersea cable during the PM’s recent visit to Australia and New Zealand to reaffirm the countries longstanding relationships and discuss areas of interest, PM Hou said he actually did not ask that question, as he did not know whether it was necessary for him to ask so he did not ask on what their concerns were.
“But as far as I am concerned, what I only want is good quality, efficient and effective telecommunication for Solomon Islands.
“Over this proposal, most of you would know that we’ve had not only this Huawei deal but another one before that.”
The PM said with those two projects, Solomon Islands was going to pay everything meaning every single penny for it which is more than 200 Million dollars.
“These dealings involved to loan in which the country would be paying for the next hundred years,” said the PM.
He explained that the beauty of the undersea cable deal now is Australia will pay 2/3, while Solomon Islands is 1/3.
“Unlike first proposal that it would only be for international, this includes domestic as well and it is an international tender work requiring highly technical works,” said the PM.
“There are many areas of benefit as well such as through education, medical, finance and banking and less travel costs.”
“The opportunities and advantages the project will bring far outweigh the cost. In terms of the cost by looking at it, it is much more cost effective in us paying less in the project compared to the first deals in which we would have paid more.”
“When asked on what Solomon Islands will gain from this undersea cable? Well of course to those who are already familiar with telecommunications, its efficiency and the long term costs and so coming down. Telecommunication is a very big item on the balance of our companies and other household levels.”
It was sighted on social media that Australian officials pressured Solomon Islands to drop the Chinese Company from the project as Western countries have become increasingly worried that its technology could be used by the Chinese government.
“A Huawei spokesman declined to comment but the company has long said it operates independently of Beijing.
“The announcement came after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met South Pacific leaders in London, including the prime minister of Solomon Islands,” posted on Fighting against China’s Creeping Authoritarianism.
PM Hou elaborated that they were able to visit the site at Sydney where the cable will be plugged in from in which while being there, they witnessed the signing of the Landing Party Agreement being signed by the Chairman of the Solomon Islands Submarine Cable Company along with the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands on behalf of DFAT.
“The signing will now enable the cable to land in Sydney at the point site visited,” said the PM.
He said the next stage hopefully early next month is the signing of the Tripartite Agreement between Australia, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
“As you know, the cable will be starting from Sydney, running through to the Coral Sea before being divided to the other two countries.
“If everything goes as planned, the undersea cable should be witnessed complete as of the end of 2019,” said Hon Hou.
It is said that various discussions are underway as well with Australia over technical assistance in terms of managing the income, repairs and costs and other areas concerning the undersea cable as Solomon Islands Submarine Cable Company is involved in technical discussions.