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Sogavare sworn in as Solomon Islands PM
www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-04 15:36:24

    Special Report:  Situation gets tense in Solomon Islands

    CANBERRA, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Manasseh Sogavare was sworn in as Solomon Islands prime minister hours after being elected at a parliamentary vote Thursday, vowing to tackle problems facing his nation.

    Sogavare, the opposition's candidate and leader of the Socred Party, was chosen by the members of parliament Thursday morning.

    Twenty-eight MPs voted for Sogavare while 22 voted for the government's candidate Fred Fono, Caretaker Prime Minister and another MP.

    The secret ballot was held as sharpshooters and riot police watched over the Parliament House in the wake of serious riots in the nation's capital of Honiara sparked by the election of previous Prime Minister Snyner Rini on April 18. Protesters said the election was fixed.

    When Governor-General Nathaniel Waena declared Sogavare as prime minister outside of Parliament House Thursday morning, he was greeted by cheers and shouts of approval by a crowd of 300 people who had waited outside to hear the outcome.

    After his victory, Sogavare pledged to tackle problems facing his country, including digging up root causes of ethnic crisis and fighting against corruption.

    He also pledged to work closely with the joint RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) and Solomons police anti-corruption unit.

    Meanwhile, he called for a review of the role of RAMSI, consisting of troops from Australia, New Zealand and some other Pacific nations.

    RAMSI has been deployed in the Solomon Islands since 2003 with the aim of helping end years of bloody ethnic gang conflict. The number of RAMSI had been reduced gradually before the riots following Rini's election.

    Australia, New Zealand and Fiji sent more troops and policemen to Honiara right after the riots broke out.

    RAMSI officials are in high-powered posts such as accountant-general and police commissioner. Australian officials keep tight control over state funds as part of an anti-corruption drive.

    Sogavare promised to set up a policy that will place Solomon Islanders in leading decision-making roles in government institutions.

    "One of the positions taken by my government is to eventually and systematically see Solomon Islanders taking leading roles in decision making in very important institutions and ministries and one of them is the ministry of finance," he said.

    "We have no problem with them (RAMSI) being present in ministries if there is a need for them," Sogavare said.

    "If there are qualified Solomon Islanders who can do their job, then as a general rule, Solomon Islanders should be used in this position," he said.

    RAMSI Special Coordinator James Batley, who is an Australian diplomat, has congratulated Sogavare on his election.

    Batley said RAMSI pledged itself to work closely with the government of Sogavare, in support of its development priorities, and in the spirit of partnership, and to continue RAMSI's work of helping to foster a peaceful, well-governed and prosperous Solomon Islands.

    Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also congratulated Sogavare on his victory, saying he is looking forward to working with the new prime minister.

    He said no decision had been made about when Australia would start withdraw its troops from the Solomon Islands. Enditem

Editor: Lin Li
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