25 Apr 2006

Solomons finance minister says riots damage investor confidence

11:59 am on 25 April 2006

The Opposition in Solomon Islands says it will be in Parliament today for the election of the Deputy Speaker, despite rumours that they would boycott the meeting.

This comes after the Opposition MPs absented themselves yesterday after the new parliament had been sworn in.

Spokesperson, Gordon Darcy Lilo, says the Opposition still believe they have the numbers to defeat the Prime Minister, Snyder Rini, in a vote of no confidence, scheduled for tomorrow.

Meanwhile as Dorothy Wickham reports the Finance Minister, Peter Boyers, is not too concerned at the loss of tax income from the Chinese business operators leaving the country.

She says Mr Boyers estimates the tax collected at around five million Solomon Islands dollars or 700,000 US dollars.

"And he says the five million mainly came from the major Chinese businesses and not those in Chinatown. Mr Boyers says however that the damage to Solomon Islands will come with the international community considering the Solomon Islands not a safe place to be and especially investors who will think twice about coming to Solomon Islands to invest."

Meanwhile, China's official Xinhua news agency says hundreds of Chinese arrived back safely in southern China after their evacuation from the strife-torn Solomon Islands.

Chinese officials were in the city of Guangzhou to welcome the 310 overseas Chinese, including 21 from Hong Kong, after they touched down on a chartered plane.

The election by MPs last Tuesday of Prime Minister Snyder Rini, accused of corruption, unleashed two days of violence in the capital, Honiara, that left dozens of Chinese-owned businesses in smoking ruins.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer has linked the riots to the ongoing power struggle between Taiwan and China for diplomatic influence in the Pacific.

And, a small number of Chinese who fled Solomon Islands to New Zealand are being allowed to stay in the country for at least three months.

The immigration service says five ethnic Chinese, who are Solomon Islands citizens, are in New Zealand.

It says one has a work permit, and the other four have been given three-month visitor permits.