14 Nov 2017

Solomons to look at Australian offer for submarine cable

9:22 pm on 14 November 2017

Solomon Islands is set to ditch its agreement with a Chinese company for an internet cable in favour of an Australian offer.

ERDF (Electricity Network Distribution France) and Louis Dreyfus company install an electric submarine cable and optical fiber between Quiberon and Belle-Ile-en-mer, western France, in 2015.

Photo: AFP

In July, Huawei said it had signed a $US53 million project contract with the Manasseh Sogavare-led government to build a submarine cable between Honiara and Sydney.

However Australia quickly expressed opposition to allowing a Chinese state-owned company's cable to land in Sydney for security reasons.

Around the same time, Australian media reports emerged about alleged bribery involved in the Sogavare government agreeing to give Huawei the contract.

Huawei said the allegations had no basis in fact, and that it had never given, implied, nor promised any political donations in relation to the project.

Since then Mr Sogavare was ousted in a vote of no-confidence last week. But his government could hold on to power after tomorrow's parliamentary vote for prime minister, for which it has nominated Small Malaita MP Rick Hou.

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Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins

The incumbent Minister of Communications, Peter Shanel, said Australia's government had extended a cable offer to the Sogavare caretaker regime.

Having seen the offer, Mr Shanel said he thought it was a good one.

"When we settle down next week after the portfolios are announced and ministers are sworn into office, we'll settle down and I'll probably bring a cabinet paper to review our agreement and our commitment with Huawei, and look at the Australia offer."

Mr Shanel said that as soon as the cabinet paper had been advanced, the new government would be able to find out more about the offer, invite the potential contractor over to Honiara and have a technical team assess it.