Australian delegation made visit to see how Australia can support democracy in Solomon Islands
A delegation from the Australian Parliament, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade made a visit to the country last week to see how Australia can support democracy development in the pacific region.
In an interview with SIBC News, Australia’s Member of Parliament and Chair of the Australian Parliament Foreign Affairs and Aid Committee Josh Burns said his delegation met with some of the offices that are key to promoting democracy in the country during the visit.
“Some of the work that we’re doing in the committee is seeing how Australia can best support democracy in our region, not just in the Solomon Islands but also in the region. We have a long precedence in Australia of partnering with countries to run elections to help support Democratic institutions. We’ve met with the Electoral commission, we’ve met with obviously members of parliament, we’ve met with other institutions that are so critical to promoting democracy,” Mr Burns said.
He said from the meetings held they were able to meet and see some capable people that are working in promoting and upholding the core values of democracy. He clarified that the visit was not to dictate and impose Australia’s views, but instead to listen and see what the country needs.
“There’s been an extremely very impressive and capable people who have been in charge of an and also not just those that the senior level but also some of the staff who are working in the mid tears as well there’s been some extremely capable people who are working in important roles here and as I said it’s not for us to come in here and put on our view on what should and shouldn’t be done but rather to listen and partner with some of the expertise in the country.”
Mr Burns added the democratic system is of great importance to both Australia and Solomon Islands as they want their own democratic institutions to uphold people’s rights.
“One thing that Australia shares, and the Solomon Island shares is really this belief in democracy, and we want to have our own expression in our own Democratic institutions and our own elections that elect people who represent all of us. I know that voting is an important thing for the people of Solomon Islands, it’s why you got such a big turnout in your elections, they care about their community, their family and the future of this country and so I think this is an important conversation to have between our two countries to partner and ensure our democracy in Australia progresses into the future and also do what we can to support the Solomon Islands and the region,” he said.
While in the country the delegates also met with the Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) as part of recognising the media and its important role as the fourth estate.
“The media as the fourth estate is an institution to speak truth to power and to hold government to account, we don’t always agree to every story written in the Australian press but it’s important that the Australian press remains independent, free and hold government to account, so for the Solomon Islands it would be same situation I presume, we want to see a strong independent media, journalism to be fearless and independent and also a strong future for the media here in the Solomon Islands. The meeting is to also speak to journalists to see what their experiences are and how they manage with their roles and what their plans are for the future,’’ Mr Burns explained.
The delegation also made a visit to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.
The delegation is also scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea.
By Sharon Nanau