3 May 2006

Solomons demands withdrawal of Australian high commissioner

3:46 pm on 3 May 2006

The Solomon Islands caretaker prime minister, Snyder Rini, has formally asked that Australia recall its high commissioner in Honiara for meddling in its internal affairs.

Mr Rini, who is to leave office tomorrow when a new prime minister is to be elected, wrote to his Australian counterpart, John Howard, yesterday seeking Patrick Cole's immediate withdrawal.

A statement released today quoted Mr Rini's letter as saying there are indications that the high commissioner has been involved to the extent of trying to influence the choice of candidates for the post of the prime minister.

On Monday, Mr Rini called in and rebuked Mr Cole over a leaked email from an Australian finance official suggesting that the high commissioner had described the nomination of Mr Rini as depressing.

The finance official has been sent home.

Mr Rini's election two weeks ago prompted two days of rioting and led to a no confidence motion being tabled.

Mr Rini resigned before the vote because several of his ministers dropped their support of him.

Meanwhile, several MPs appear to have committed their support to both candidates for the prime ministership, Fred Fono and Manasseh Sogavare.

Both of them claim to have a majority support ahead of tomorrow's secret ballot.