27 Sep 2006

Replacing Solomon Islands Attorney-General could compromise judiciary's independence

1:53 pm on 27 September 2006

A regional expert says the appointment of a controversial lawyer, Julian Moti, to the position of Solomon Islands Attorney-General will further sour already tense relations with Australia.

The associate professor of governance at the University of the South Pacific, Dr Jon Fraenkel, says the judiciary and the legal fraternity have been independent up until now.

He says this month's decision to sack the Attorney-General, Primo Afeau, came after he disagreed with government policy.

Dr Fraenkel says the appointment of Mr Moti, whose past includes charges of rape in Vanuatu that were eventually dismissed and being banned for interfering in local politics in Solomon Islands, is not a good signal to Australia.

"After all, Australia is the leading force in the regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands. We're seeing intervention in the law and justice sector, we've also seen the launching of a commission of enquiry which is clearly intended to try and secure the release of these ministers, in addition to the expulsion of the Australian High Commissioner, Patrick Cole."

Dr Fraenkel says the political situation is fluid in Solomon Islands and the motion of no confidence in the government in early October may see further changes occur.