19 Jul 2005

Solomons government denies claims Japan bought its vote on whaling

1:13 pm on 19 July 2005

The Solomon Islands government is denying claims that Japan paid it in return for supporting Tokyo's stance in favour of commercial whaling.

The permanent secretary of the Solomon Islands fisheries department, Tione Bugotu, describes a report last night on Australian public television as 'absolutely false'.

The ABC programme reported Mr Bugotu as saying Japan paid money to Solomon Islands in exchange for its vote on the International Whaling Commission, and for cheap access by Japanese fishermen to Solomons tuna stocks.

But, Mr Bugotu says the millions of dollars paid to the Solomons government for fishing rights aren't from Japan alone and Taiwan has more vessels licensed to fish in Solomon Islands than Japan does.

A former Solomon Islands commissioner to the IWC, Albert Wata, rejects this argument, saying Japan was paying Solomon Islands for its support even before it was granted fishing rights.

"Japan paid for the contribution, for the cost of attending meetings of the commission. Before the meeting took place, they sent people to Honiara to talk to government."

The Solomons delegation at the International Whaling Commission went against a pledge by its Prime Minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza, and voted for a resumption of commercial whaling.