EMPTY promises of funding and infrastructure development by the United States have been blamed for the precarious position Premier Daniel Suidani’s MARA government has found itself in.
It was shortly after Solomon Islands switched diplomatic relations to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in September 2019 that the United States registered its first direct response.
Unbeknown to many, including those in the DCGA government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, senior US officials arrived in Honiara and chartered a flight to Auki, according to those familiar with the unexpected visit.
Onboard were two women and seven men, according to insiders in Auki.
On their arrival in the provincial capital, the visitors headed straight to the Malaita Provincial Assembly Green House overlooking the Auki harbor,” they said.
There, they met provincial government ministers including Premier Daniel Suidani and the Speaker of the Assembly, among others.
Discussions covered a range of areas, focusing on economic development which included funding support for everything.
“It was apparent the Americans have found their man in Premier Suidani – someone who could stand up to the national government in opposing China in Solomon Islands.
“They promised us everything, but delivery,” one insider said.
“Some even drove out as far as Aligegeo Provincial High School to see the conditions of the road out there. And they promised us heaps … funding support, projects and everything,” one insider told Solomon Star.
“Premier Suidani used these promises to travel the length and breadth of Malaita Province in his anti-China stance, promising Malaitans that the United States would develop Malaita. In doing so, he has been accused of misappropriation of public funds at the behest of false promises by Washington.”
The Americans were apparently aware of the Premier’s health conditions at the time.
“They offered to medivac the Premier in their own private jet for treatment either in the US or in a friendly country,” the sources said.
“We had to say no because that would encroach on sovereignty issue unless there is mutual agreement on the matter. So the evacuation plan was canned,” the sources said.
The sources pointed out that the promises of US funding went through rural Malaita as wild fires.
“Every rural Malaitan was brainwashed to the point that Malaitans would reject funding support from everywhere but the United States.
“But when we followed up the promises, the US side has gone strangely quiet. The potential demise of the MARA government could be put fairly and squarely on the delay by the US government’s empty promises.”
The US government, however, did not forget about its promises. It announced a US$25 million project funding for Malaita as a pilot project. Its success or otherwise on Malaita would determine its future in Solomon Islands.
The USAID SCALE initiative is a national five-year $205.5m investment in economic growth and trade in the Solomon Islands with an initial focus on Malaita Province, the US said.
Last Thursday the SCALE funding finally announced grants for just three projects after applicants have been waiting for more than two years. The release which some said was too little too late, apparently was timed to coincide with the official opening of the much-talked about the reopening of the United States Embassy in Honiara.
The word on the ground here is that many rural Malaitans have felt they have been misled by Premier Suidani about US funding.
“Because of that, many people no longer believe in his crusade. That is why tomorrow’s (today’s) Motion of No Confidence would not be as violent as the last one. The Premier has lost the support of the so-called People’s Power,” a taxi driver from West Kwara’ae told me on the ride to my hotel.
“By comparison China has done more by way of investing in infrastructure development in the same period. And people are seeing tangible evidence on the ground,” the taxi driver said.
“People will take precaution but we do not think there would be violence,” some said.
By Alfred Sasako