10 Jul 2003

Solomon Islands MPs still debating Australia's offer of an intervention force

12:17 pm on 10 July 2003

Solomon Islands MPs are expected today to conclude their debate on Australia's plans for an armed intervention force in the country.

The Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Alfred Sasako says there is widespread support but MPs have been concerned at the lack of detail given them.

He says one concern is that there is talk of Australia sending a deputy police commissioner and another to oversee the entire operation..

Mr Sasako says this would mean that there would be two parallel administrations, and he says there is no indication which would have primacy.

"The so-called policy statement on this particular issue is so general that it is very open to a whole host of interpretations. I think that is one of the concerns we hope, by the time parliament has given its approval, we will be in the position to say yes, and say okay go ahead with it."

Debate began yesterday with five MPs speaking, and as Dorothy Wickham reports former Prime Minister Manassah Sogavare was highly critical of Australia's delay in coming to the country's aid.

especially, he pointed out, when Australia brokered the TPA - the Townsville Peace agreement - between the two warring factions, and it should have used that opportunity. However, he said, if parliamentarians do not support the intervention, then they would be pretty stupid not to. The leader of the Opposition, John Garo, spoke briefly and said that Somomon Islands has no choice but to accept the offer. The Prime Minister said politicians can forget about the future if they do not back it.