JULIAN Moti, whose controversial engagement by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in 2006 sparked a bitter diplomatic spat between Australia and Solomon Islands, says he is not interested in returning.
The Fiji-born Australian citizen was engaged by Mr Sogavare in 2006 as the country’s attorney general – an engagement that soured the country’s relationship with Australia and that of Australia with Papua New Guinea.
Upon the re-election of Mr Sogavare to the top post this week, the Moti issue resurfaced on social media.
The Solomon Star exclusively asked Mr Moti about his relationship with Mr Sogavare and if he would return again if offered the AG’s post.
“Let me put everyone’s mind to rest by answering the only question that needs to be asked,” Mr Moti said.
“I have absolutely no interest in returning to Solomon Islands to take up the Attorney General’s post,” Mr Moti added.
Asked what his take is on criticisms that may arise to discredit Mr Sogavare regarding the past issue, Mr Moti said Mr Sogavare knows he now has better things to do.
“Manasseh Sogavare knows that I’ve got better things to do with my time and life away from the Solomons.
“He need not be troubled by idle speculations.”
Mr Moti said Mr Sogavare deserves to govern with the mandate he has been given by the people of Solomon Islands and his parliamentary colleagues without any distraction whatsoever.
When asked about his current relationship with the Prime Minister after the down-fall of Mr Sogavare’s government in 2007 and the eight years he was tried by the Australian courts, he said their friendship has withstood so much.
“It withstood so much to keep us together and make us stronger.”
He added if Mr Sogavare doesn’t have confidence in the current Attorney General, he would be well-advised to advertise the post to avoid needless political controversy.
Australia’s chase on Mr Moti, which resulted in years of court battle that cost a fortune, later came to nothing.
The pursuit of Mr Moti exacted a high diplomatic price.
The then Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, was seen to be attacking three Pacific nations: Vanuatu for not trying the man in the first place; the Solomons for making him as attorney-general; and PNG for preventing his extradition to Australia.
Canberra might never have worried about Mr Moti and his alleged crimes, except that he became involved in the turbulent politics of the Solomon Islands in the aftermath of RAMSI, the 2003 military and police intervention led by Australia that restored law and order.
Documents that emerged during the Moti litigation show Australian officials were soon worried that the Sydney University graduate might win a place in a future government led by his friend Manasseh Sogavare, who was seen as a merciless opponent of RAMSI (the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands).
Australia’s worst fears later came to reality, which resulted in his arrest while transiting through PNG a week after his appointment as AG, at Canberra’s request.
He skipped bail, hid in the Solomon Islands High Commission Office and was secretly flown to Honiara by the PNG Defence Force.
Canberra had to wait another year until the fall of the Sogavare government, which led to Mr Moti’s sacking from the cabinet and his over-hasty deportation a few days after Christmas 2007.
The Fijian-born lawyer is now teaching law at the Fiji National University after successfully staying all the charges orchestrated against him.
Mr Moti could not say when asked whether he will be looking for compensation from the Solomon Islands government, now that the man who understands the issue is in pole position.
He was subjected to humiliation and illegal deportation by the Sikua-led government in late 2007 when Mr Sogavare was overthrown.
By EDNAL PALMER