22 Sep 2006

Controversy over appointment of new Solomon Islands attorney-general

8:07 am on 22 September 2006

A controversial Australian lawyer has been appointed as the new Solomon Islands Attorney-General in a move bound to further strain relations between Solomon Islands and Australia.

Julian Moti, an Australian of Fijian Indian background, is a friend of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who is embroiled in a damaging stoush with Canberra over his expulsion of High Commissioner Patrick Cole.

The AAP news agency reports Canberra will not be happy with the appointment of Mr Moti, who is believed to have advised the prime minister to set up a controversial commission of inquiry into April's Honiara riots.

Canberra believes the inquiry is designed to get two jailed off charges of inciting the riots and deflect attention on to Australian police commanders' handling of the unrest.

Julian Moti replaces Primo Afeau, who fell out with Mr Sogavare after he challenged two of the terms of reference to a commission of inquiry Mr Sogavare set up into the Honiara riots.

In 2001, Julian Moti was banned from the Solomon Islands for interfering in domestic politics.

The ban was lifted after Mr Sogavare came to power in May.