The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) yesterday clarified the background and context of the comment by Prime Minister labeling Taiwan as ‘useless’ that appeared in our front page publication on Thursday.
A statement from the OPMC said the interview was initially derived from a podcast from The Red Podcast site.
The confidential interview was supposed to be for research purposes.
It also confirmed that in July Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare shared with Dr Graeme Smith, a staff of the Australian National University (ANU) the imbalance between the amount of development assistance provided to Solomon Islands by Taiwan since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries as compared to the dollar value of tuna caught by Taiwan in Solomon Islands waters over the same period.
According to the statement, Mr Sogavare contended that while Taiwan had given Solomon Islands hundreds of millions of US dollars during this period, Taiwan had harvested billions of dollars-worth of tuna from Solomon Island waters during the same period.
Mr Sogavare reflected that in this regard, Solomon Islands is a net lender to Taiwan.
It is in this context, that the Prime Minister’s comment were couched, the statement from the Prime Minister and Cabinet said.
“When one compares what Taiwan gets from Solomon Islands’ tuna fishery compared to what Taiwan gives to us in development assistance there is a huge imbalance in favour of Taiwan,” the statement said.
The statement said the Prime Minister’s comments were made in a private conversation that was requested through Dr Tarcisus Tara from the University of Hawaii on behalf of Dr Graeme from the Australian National University (ANU) for research purposes on the Solomon Islands/China/Taiwan issue.
“Now it appears that some ulterior motives have been exposed in support of a separate agenda,” the statement added.
The statement further highlighted that the interview being a confidential discussion between Dr Graeme and the prime minister, it was therefore within this context that Dr Graeme has misrepresented his real intentions by conducting his interview under the pretext of confidentiality.
Under the framework ‘Friend to all, enemy to none’ the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) had embarked on a transparent review of its foreign policy as part of its 100-days policy priorities with a decision to be made on the best way forward based on findings of the assessment, the statement expressed.
“Hence, in its effort to substantiate facts, the solidarity of the DCGA remains steadfast as the government is ready to deliberate on findings from investigations of the Cabinet appointed Bipartisan Taskforce in support of an informed decision that will be made to serve the best interests of the country and the people.
“Media headlines about leaked documents that will eventually be made public, misrepresent the findings of the reports and assessments which the DCGA has been diligently preparing by leaving no stone unturned to ensure the future best interests of Solomon Islands remain an overarching priority.
“The approach taken by the DCGA is the first of its kind for any nation to publicly announce a review and carry out both a comprehensive and transparent assessment of the risks and benefits such a foreign policy shift could have on the domestic economy and future well-being of the country.
“The government is mindful that for such decisions, timing is critical to the success or failure of what can be leveraged to maximise benefits while also safeguarding our national best interests,” the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office highlighted.
It further added Caucus and Cabinet will soon deliberate on the whether to maintain the current diplomatic relationship with Taiwan or switch Bilateral recognition to Mainland China and a collective decision will be made which reflects the DCGA policy “that harnesses maximum benefit from our diplomatic relations premised on an open engagement policy of being a friend to all and enemy to none.”
“Until a decision is made, Taiwan is still a diplomatic partner of Solomon Islands.
“The DCGA is committed to the delivery of ongoing and prospective policy priorities in the interests of peace, national stability and economic advancement,,” the statement reads.