7 Aug 2006

Reports that Minister dumped ahead of Solomons leader's Taiwan trip

8:37 pm on 7 August 2006

The Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has cancelled a trip to Papua New Guinea but plans to continue with his visit to Taiwan.

The secretary to cabinet, John Roughan, says reports that Mr Sogavare decided to cancel his trip to Taipei as a result of an unresolved row with cabinet ministers, are incorrect.

Mr Sogavare has been trying to sort out a dispute with a coalition partner, the National Party, over it signing a memorandum with the Chinese government when the government officially recognises Taiwan.

Mr Roughan says Mr Sogavare is set to leave mid-week for Taipei.

"As far as I know, the trip to Taiwan is still on. He was going to have it back to back, going to Papua New Guinea, speaking to parliament and then travelling on to Taiwan. Now, that was, he felt, too hurried a trip and that has been put at a later date."

Mr Roughan says the prime minister will meet the Taiwanese president and members of the business community.

Meanwhile, our correspondent, Dorothy Wickham, confirms that the National Party leader, Frances Billy Hilly, who had been Commerce Minister, has been expelled from Cabinet.

We have been told by his permanent secretary, Geoffrey Wickham, that he is no longer Minister and that he had packed up his belongings and moved out of the office.

Mr Sogavare is expected to make a statement on the reshuffle and the future of another Minister whose position is said to be in doubt, Gordon Darcy Lilo, tomorrow.