11 Sep 2006

Australia fears meddling over Solomons riot trial - paper

3:37 pm on 11 September 2006

Australia is to send a senior envoy to the Solomon Islands this week to deliver a strongly worded protest over possible government meddling in the trial of two MPs charged with instigating the April riots.

The newspaper, The Age, reports of serious concern in Canberra about the inquiry into the riots, commissioned by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, and his insistence that it must also investigate why the two local MPs were arrested by Australian-led police.

The MPs, Charles Dausabea and Nelson Ne'e, have yet to face trial and if Mr Sogavare has his way, the court proceedings could run parallel to the judicial inquiry examining whether their arrests were designed to eliminate them politically.

Both MPs are allies of Mr Sogavare who briefly made them ministers despite their arrests.

There is concern, too, about Mr Sogavare's plan to sack the respected Solomon Islands Attorney-General, Primo Afeau, because he objected to the investigation into the MPs' arrests.

Mr Afeau said that was an outrageous example of Government interference in the court process.

Australian officials have previously raised concerns with the Solomons government before deciding to deliver the message more forcefully, directly to Mr Sogavare.