Was PM Hou set up on the West Papua issue?

By Alfred Sasako

PRIME MINISTER Ricky Houenipwela may have been set up to apologise for Solomon Islands’ position on the West Papua issue at the recent Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ Summit in Port Moresby.

The Opposition yesterday capitalised on the apology, trapping the Prime Minister on the floor of Parliament during Question Time.

Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was of little help to his boss. He told Parliament yesterday that the Prime Minister’s attendance at the recent MSG was to pass on the baton, not to apologise.

According to Members of Parliament, the matter has driven an apparent wedge between Prime Minister Houenipwela and his Deputy.

“As everyone knows, prime minister(s) do not go speaking on international issues on their own. Whatever they say is usually based on advice they received from officials,” they said.

In Parliament yesterday, the Prime Minister was said to be alone in defending his position.

“His Deputy was speaking the same language as the Opposition. The Prime Minister was clearly on his own,” they said.

Others say it is time Prime Minister Houenipwela put his foot down to show everyone who is in charge.

“He should now remove those officials who failed him in providing informed advice on the West Papua issue,” some suggested.

During Mr Sogavare’s term as Prime Minister and Chairman of the MSG, three staff including a Tongan based in Vanuatu were engaged to work full time on the West Papua issue.

It is not clear whether these staff are still on deck.

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