Suidani: switch to China, a blow to Malaita-US deal
By WILSON SAENI
GOVERNMENT’s decision to switch ties from Taiwan may cost Malaita province from receiving SBD$2,468,445,000.00 ($2.5b) in funding support from United States (US).
This was revealed by the Malaita provincial premier Daniel Suidani who has hit out at Malaitan Members of Parliament (MPs) who supported the move to switch from Taiwan to China.
“The decision might stop Malaita from receiving US$300 millions worth of grant which is equivalent to SBD$2,468,445,000.00 that was discussed with the US representatives in Honiara last week,” the disappointed premier told the paper in an exclusive interview, Thursday.
This paper was informed the offer was in a document presented to the premier during last week’s meeting with the US Ambassador to Solomon Islands Catherine Ember-Gray in Honiara.
Premier Suidani described the switch as surprising and unacceptable for the province.
“If the decision to switch ties will affect the positive talks I had with US for a possible grant worth SBD$2.5billion to develop Malaita, then it is very clear the decision taken by the Sogavare led government supported by certain Malaita MPs is a definite blockage to the possible funding I have discussed with the US government.
“I’m sure and my people of Malaita know that our national MPs are aware of the positive talks we had with USA.
“Only MPs who do not want to see Malaita develop, advance its local economy and improve the standard of living for its people will do something to hinder this proposed assistance,” he said.
Mr Suidani questioned why the Cabinet made the decision to switch ties.
He described the timeline of the decision as too early knowing perfectly he (PM) will discuss the issue with US during the General Assembly this month.
Premier Suidani said one of the agendas on the table for discussion is the US$300 million funding from US support to develop Malaita more specifically Bina Harbour.
But this proposed funding support is now in limbo, he added.
He said if the PM refuses to go to the UN Assembly, we the people of Malaita can understand his stand.
“A sensible PM who has concern for Malaita will hold the decision to switch and announced it after meeting with US. Or better still just hold on to the move to allow Malaita to receive the billion dollar grant from US to develop its province,”he said.
Premier Suidani added the government knows very well switching ties from any traditional friend like Taiwan will cause irritation to all members of the traditional democratic friends including Australia, New Zealand and US.
“The decision the government takes in rushing the decision is regrettable and is not supportive of my people of Malaita province in that matter,” he expressed.
Asked if US will still give the multi billion-dollar grant to Malaita, the premier said, “the switch is a real blow to the deal.
“We will wait and see how US will react after the bilateral switch,” he said.
The premier said Malaita as a province has been struggling and missing out on important developments for the past 40 years.
“So this is our chance to develop this province. The national government clearly shows its bitter taste for Malaita when it comes to development funding,” he said.
Malaita province is hopeful US will still live up to its promise after the positive talk last week.
“We will leave it up to her (US) to decide,” he said.
The premier described the way Solomon Islands Government treated Taiwan in its last days before the switch as just pure inhuman.
“Such action does not speak well of Solomon Islands leaders and grown Melanesian men,” he said adding, Malaita as a province with huge respect to such friendship share sympathy with Taiwan and the people of Taiwan for decision the national government reached.
He thanked the Taiwanese government for its support to the country and Malaita province over the years.
“Malaita is a good friend of Taiwan and will always be,” he concluded.
Its understood China and US are currently engaging in a trade war.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence has cancelled plans to meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to discuss development partnerships after ties with Taiwan was abandoned on Monday.
Mr Sogavare had asked Pence in July for a meeting, a senior administration official told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The meeting was to have taken place this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, or afterward in Washington.
“But the decision by the Solomon Islands to change its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China has consequences. They’re hurting a historically strong relationship by doing this,” the official said.