OPMC Says, Australian HC to SI was never being Summoned
The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OMPC) has clarified that the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands was never being summoned following the Four Corners program that was aired on ABC.
On Monday 22 August 2022, ABC News published an online article titled ‘Australian High Commissioner summoned by Solomon Islands government over ABC’s Four Corners report.’
The article claims that “the Solomon Islands government has hauled in Australia’s High Commissioner to complain after the ABC’s Four Corners program aired an episode exploring how China has been rapidly building commercial and security ties with the Pacific Island nation.’’
It said “the ABC story angered some senior government figures in Solomon Islands.
“One government source said Mr Sogavare and senior officials were “furious” about the program and saw it as part of a deliberate and concerted effort by Australian media organisations to undermine the government and damage ties between Honiara and Beijing.
“ABC has been told that High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan was called into the Foreign Affairs Ministry over the episode, and that officials warned him negative media coverage by Australian outlets could damage ties between the two countries.
Leader of Opposition Mathew Wale in a statement said it is an international embarrassment and a laughing stock to think that he (Prime Minister) can control ABC’s editorial independence.
He said ABC has its own editorial independence, and even federal government ministers and senior officials do not have control over ABC.
“It is totally pointless to summon the high commissioner or any of his staff over the matter,” he said.
In response, the OPMC clarified that the Australian High Commissioner was never summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Television has published.
The High Commissioner has had ‘neighborly discussion’ with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade on a number of issues pertinent to the relationship between Solomon Islands and the Australian Government. The Four Corners Program of ABC was merely part of the range of issues discussed.
OPMC however, is concerned of the Four Corners’ program, particularly on a number of misinformation spewed out by the program.
It is a baseless allegation to say that a Chinese firm is going to buy off the Kolombangara Forests Products Limited (KFPL) on Kolombangara Island, Western Province.
The KFPL is a joint venture of the Nien family of Taiwan who hold 60 percent of shares and the Solomon Islands Government with 40 percent shares.
At no time the shareholders’ have made a decision to sell off the company to a Chinese firm.
Adding to that, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has no intention to set up a naval base at Kolombangara as Angus Grigg of the Four Corners program would like to portray to his viewers.
It was obvious that Grigg was putting words into the mouths of the interviewees and that speaks volumes of his intention which is clearly to cause division between the governments of Australia and Solomon Islands.
The Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare has maintained and repeatedly reaffirmed to Solomon Islanders and the Pacific region that there will be no military or naval base in Solomon Islands.
The Four Corners program never acknowledged that assurance and instead delved into the PRC- Solomon Islands relationship with the intention to cause animosity between the Governments of PRC, Solomon Islands and Australia.
“OPMC finds it laughable that the Leader of Opposition has gone out too soon to allege that it was the Prime Minister who instructed the Foreign Affairs Officials to summon the Australian High Commissioner.
“If the Opposition Leader has any seriousness in his job as the alternative leader, he would have sought the right information before releasing a public statement.
“The Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, however, reiterated that his number one priority is to protect the sovereignty and national interest of the country and its citizens,” the statement said.
The Prime Minister’s responsibility is to protect the Sovereignty and National interest of the indigenous people of the independent state of Solomon Islands.