Report: Situation gets tense in Solomon
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
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
Meanwhile, he called for a review of the role of
RAMSI, consisting of troops from Australia, New Zealand and some other Pacific
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
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