1 May 2006

Solomon Islands candidate for PM says Malaitan could hold top job

1:18 pm on 1 May 2006

One of the two candidates for the post of the Solomon Islands prime minister says it is not too early to have a Malaitan take the top job in the country.

Fred Fono, who has been the deputy prime minister in the short-lived government of Snyder Rini, says despite the effects of the ethnic tension which pitted Malaitans against those from Guadalcanal, and the recent rioting in Honiara, he believes he will have public support.

Mr Fono says he expects to have 30 MPs support him in the election for prime minister on Thursday as some opposition MPs have indicated they will vote for him.

"I think it is time a Malaita leader, with dignity and respect, take leadership so as to try and gauge the support of Malaitans. Not only that, in my case, my wife is from Guadalcanal so that cultural elements would hold the two provinces together."

Mr Fono says if elected as PM, the position of deputy PM will be chosen by the Guadalcanal MPs in his group.

The opposition has said it believes it can count on 24 of the 48 MPs who will be present for the voting.

2 MPs remain in custody charged with involvement in the rioting.