27 Sep 2019

Sacked Solomons minister says PM lied, China switch 'pre-determined'

7:56 am on 27 September 2019

Solomon Islands' decision to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China was predetermined, a former prime minister says.

Rick Hou said prime minister Manasseh Sogavare lied to Solomon Islanders and the international community when he promised the government would be "leaving no stone unturned" in considering the pros and cons of the move.

Solomon Islands Minister of Planning and Aid Co-ordination Rick Hou. June 2019

Solomon Islands Minister of Planning and Aid Co-ordination Rick Hou. June 2019 Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koro Vaka'uta

Mr Hou, who is also a former central bank governor, was sacked as planning minister this week along with the justice minister, Tautai Kaitu'u.

Mr Hou said he was dismissed for being vocal in caucus and cabinet about the need for more consideration and consultation before the switch.

Solomon Islands' 36 year relationship with Taiwan ended last week before the Solomons' foreign affair minister, Jeremiah Manele, and his Chinese counterpart formalised ties on Sunday.

Mr Hou said the Solomons had launched a formal process to consider the switch, and the government was to consider reports from four different review panels before deciding.

But halfway through the process, Mr Hou said it was clear that the decision had already been made.

"It was already predetermined this decision and what the government has been doing in the last couple of weeks is trying to legitimize this... and to try as much as possible to comply with (a) cabinet sanctioned process which, as we now found out, it has not been done," Mr Hou said.

Even more worrying was that a taskforce exploring the merits of switching to China had recommended the Solomons do so before 1 October, he said.

According to Mr Hou, the chair of the taskforce later admitted that the recommendation was based on a request from Beijing that the switch happen in time for the 70th anniversary of China's national day.

Compounding Mr Hou's disappointment is the fear that China will exploit weak laws and regulations in Solomon Islands.

Solomons institutions could be corrupted by Beijing and Chinese companies, he said.

"The way they do business is anything but transparent and my greatest fear is this is going to really cripple all institutions of good governance and compliance law and order enforcement and (you) name it. All these institutions are going to be crippled by this," Mr Hou said.

Now that the switch has been made, Solomon Islands should move quickly to strengthen legislation, he said.

But given the rushed manner in which the switch was made, Mr Hou said he was afraid it was already too late.