Solomon Islands PM raises the bar criticizing Australia while praising China in speech to parliament
Solomon Islands’ prime minister has launched a tirade in parliament suggesting Australia and its allies are deliberately trying to undermine his government, criticizing the Western response to the Russian invasion and praising China’s treatment of Christians.
- Manasseh Sogavare says Solomon Islands groups critical of security pact are ‘racists’ and ‘bigots’
- He referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying there were “two sides to every situation”.
- He also said Christianity was “thriving” in China because believers followed government rules.
Manasseh Sogavare also sharpened his criticism of civil society groups in the Solomon Islands, suggesting they are being manipulated by foreign countries and saying they are “preyed upon by the Western world”.
The Prime Minister’s furious denunciation of the West – which was delivered to the Solomon Islands parliament yesterday – has solidified fears in Canberra over the trajectory of Mr Sogavare’s government, with an official who told the ABC that the leader was becoming increasingly autocratic and hostile to Australia after signing a security pact with China.
Solomon Islands civil society groups have criticized the security pact and say they are concerned about the prospect of Chinese troops or police entering the Solomon Islands to quell future protests.
But Mr Sogavare told parliament that these activists were “racists” and “fanatics” deeply hostile to China who were manipulated by “foreign masters”.
“What concerns us … is the blatant hypocrisy that shines through in the strategies employed by some of our partners, working with some of their agents on the ground, to give the government a hard time for unjustifiable reasons,” did he declare.
Mr Sogavare also appeared to mock Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who called the Solomon Islands “a little Cuba” after the announcement of the draft security treaty.
This seemed to be a reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the United States set up a naval blockade to prevent the Soviet Union from building nuclear missile silos in Cuba, near the American coast.
Mr Sogavare said the USSR was “not the aggressor” during the 1962 crisis and drew a comparison with the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier that year.
“The [are] two sides of every situation we see happening in the world today, including the Ukraine crisis, where the Western world is trying to condemn every nation,” he said.
“The [are] two versions of each story.”
He also defended China, saying there were “no beggars” on the streets of its major cities, unlike in the West.
Some Solomon Islands MPs and civil society groups have criticized the Chinese government’s repeated and growing crackdown on Christians under President Xi Jinping.
But Mr Sogavare said faith was “thriving” in China because believers followed the rules laid down by the government.
“I don’t know where these people are from, but speaking of Christian values…there are over 120 million true practicing Christians in China. Our own churches? 500,000. Half a million,” he said. he said.
“It’s more serious for practicing Christians in China than for the entire population of the Pacific island nations, including Australia and New Zealand combined. Yes, there are rules. There are limitations.”
“But Christianity thrives because it obeys authority.”
Mr Sogavare also appeared to latch onto an article written by an Australian analyst which suggested the federal government might need to launch an invasion of the Solomon Islands if China decided to set up a military base in the country.
No government figure in Australia has publicly raised the prospect of an invasion.
But Mr Sogavare appeared to suggest that option was being considered in Australia, saying the Solomon Islands had received a ‘touching warning of military intervention’.
“In other words, we are threatened with invasion. Now it’s serious,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Foreign Secretary Marise Payne responded to Mr Sogavare’s attack by saying Australia was “deeply committed” to the Pacific.
“We respond when needed, whether it be natural disasters, economic and health shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic, or civil unrest of the kind that took place in the Solomon Islands at the end of of last year,” they said.
“We support our Pacific family and always will.”