9 Feb 2007

Australian foreign minister makes appeal to Solomon Islands public

10:28 am on 9 February 2007

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has written directly to the people of Solomon Islands to express his grave concern about the state of the relationship between Solomon Islands and Australia.

In a letter published in three local papers, Mr Downer says Solomon Islanders have the right to know the plain facts of what is happening in the relationship and, in particular, the current attempts being made to undermine Australia and the Pacific region's effort to help Solomon Islands through RAMSI.

Mr Downer says Australia wants to continue to help Solomon Islands but is finding it increasingly difficult due to the obstacles placed on its path.

He says the Government dismissed the Attorney General, a Solomon Islander, and replaced him with a man wanted in Australia on child-sex charges.

He says late last year, the Solicitor General, a RAMSI employee, was forced to leave after being personally threatened.

Mr Downer says without giving any reason, the government then banned the Police Commissioner, Shane Castles, from the country.

He says despite all of this, Australia has attempted to move ahead on the bilateral relationship and have welcomed to Australia a new Solomon Islands High Commissioner, Victor Ngele.

Mr Downer says Australia also appointed a new High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Peter Hooton, who is keen to advance Australia's interests.

He says unfortunately, the Solomon Islands Government has now cancelled two appointments for Mr Hooton to present his letter of introduction, thereby preventing him from carrying out his legitimate duties as Australia's representative to Solomon Islands.