10 Sep 2004

Solomons opposition MP replaces sacked agriculture minister

2:44 pm on 10 September 2004

A key opposition member in Solomon Islands has defected to the government to replace a minister sacked and charged with arson.

MP Alfred Sasako is to replace Alex Bartlett as agriculture minister.

Bartlett is to appear in court this afternoon for a hearing on his bail application after he was charged with arson, illegal possession of firearms and demanding money with menaces.

While Bartlett is appearing in court, Mr Sasako will be sworn in as the new minister.

The people of Bartlett's constituency have accused the prime minister of being inconsistent with his position only to replace their parliamentarian, before the courts have ruled on his verdict.

Mr Sasako was a minister in the government ousted in the coup of 2000 by police and Malaitan militants whose leaders included Bartlett.