17 May 2006

Solomons PM replaces two ministers in custody

8:25 pm on 17 May 2006

The new leader of Solomon Islands has backed away from appointing two MPs to his cabinet while they sit in jail on charges of inciting last month's Honiara riots.

Australia and New Zealand both sharply criticised Mr Sogavare's May 5 choice of East Honiara MP Charles Dausabea as police and national security minister and Central Honiara MP Nelson Ne'e as tourism and culture minister.

The Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Sam Alasia says the appointment of Mr Dausabea and Mr Ne'e could not now be processed while they were in custody.

He says instead their ministerial responsibilities had been reassigned indefinitely to two other cabinet members.

Foreign Affairs Minister Patteson Oti becomes acting police minister while Commerce, Industries and Employment Minister Francis Billy Hilly becomes acting tourism and culture minister.

The Solomons opposition has slammed Mr Sogavare over his attempts to free the MPs, accusing him of interfering with the judiciary.