5 May 2006

New Solomons government to focus on corruption and resolving long standing grievances

10:15 am on 5 May 2006

The newly elected Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, says his government intends tackling corruption head on.

Mr Sogavare was elected yesterday, eight days after he had crossed the floor prompting the resignation of Snyder Rini.

He says the underlying causes of the ethnic tensions have yet to be dealt with and this will be a priority for his government.

Mr Sogavare also says there is a perception some members of the previous coalition were corrupt and his government will work closely with the Regional Assistance Mission's anti-corruption unit to try and eliminate the problems.

And he says there is also a need for institutional change in the prime ministerial selection process.

"You know, rearrange the institutional set up so there is no room to allow for people to be corrupt. Things like that need to be sanctioned as well but corruption is also a matter of choice, and if people want to be corrupt they will be corrupt even if you have the best of systems."

Mr Sogavare says any decision on whether Solomon Islands might switch diplomatic allegiance to Beijing rather than Taiwan will not be addressed with some time.

Mr Sogavare says it is not an issue for now.

He says Taiwan has been very supportive.

They came in to assist us during the ethnic crisis when no one else came, so really the country owes them a lot but that [diplomatic recognition] will be an issue that will be addressed at the appropriate time.

Commentator Dr John Roughan of the Solomon Islands Development Trust says Mr Sogavare will need to work hard to improve his performance on the previous occasion he led the country in the 18 months from July of 2000.

He says people will be looking for an improvement and will particularly be watching who he appoints to his key ministries.

Everybody is happy that finally we have come through that period [the prime minister's selection] without any difficulty. It was very calm and well done. It was professionally done. That's fine, but let's get down to the governing of the country because we have gone through a very patchy period, a very unhealthy period and he has got much to overcome.