The Solomon Islands-Australia partnership: High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan calls on Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare
On 2 December, Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands His Excellency Dr Lachlan Strahan called on Prime Minister the Honourable Manasseh Sogavare to discuss the deep partnership between Australia and Solomon Islands, spanning health, COVID response, education, labour mobility, infrastructure, inclusive economic growth, gender equality and security.
During the meeting, High Commissioner Strahan delivered a letter from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Prime Minister Sogavare conveying Australia’s plans to reduce its own emissions, including through a new technology investment roadmap, and work with Pacific countries to help build resilience to the impacts of climate and natural disasters.
The High Commissioner informed the Prime Minister that the total support provided by Australia to Solomon Islands in 2020 will exceed 1 billion Solomon Island dollars, across a range of major projects and engagements in many government ministries and agencies.
He informed the Prime Minister that the AUD$250 million Solomon Islands Infrastructure Program (SIIP) will soon be launched, and thanked the Prime Minister for the involvement by the Ministry of National Planning and Development Coordination (MNPDC) and the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for being part of the design process for SIIP.
The MNPDC will be the key interlocutor for the SIIP project. Among the first projects to be considered under this program would be the upgrading of two domestic airports in partnership with the New Zealand Government, improvement of ports facilities in Noro and possibly Temotu province, which would open up market opportunities with Vanuatu. It is likely the Gizo market model can be built in other provinces including in Honiara.
The High Commissioner highlighted the major projects Australia is supporting including the Tina River Hydro project, for which Australia has already contributed AUD$30 million and is considering substantial additional funding; Lofung South Patrol Boat Base to enhance border surveillance and security; major support to the police work on unexploded ordinance, in addition to its substantial ongoing support to the RSIPF; possible support to component projects under the National Transport Core (NTC) including the Bina Harbour, the financing of two telecommunication towers at Shortland Islands to address the communication blackhole that is undermining border security at the western border and many more.
The High Commissioner noted that an Australian Defence Force (ADF) team had just visited all nine provinces to repair radios and identify future needs. He said the ADF had examined how police, health and disaster response radio systems could work together more effectively.
The High Commissioner updated the Prime Minister on the first batch of labour mobility workers (173) that went to Australia last week indicating that Australia is looking for more workers from Solomon Islands to be recruited to work in Australia. The High Commissioner said Australia fully supported the Prime Minister’s recent remarks about the need to step up our efforts to counter modern slavery and trafficking.
The High Commissioner reflected on the one-year anniversary of the Coral Sea Submarine Cable, which has seen a doubling in internet traffic, and presented the Prime Minister with a submarine-cable memento to commemorate the anniversary.
The High Commissioner advised that his team is pulling together the full scope of Australia’s support to Solomon Islands that could be shared with all government ministries, which will also make it easier for government to know where the funds go and how they assist in delivering against the government’s priorities.
The High Commissioner concluded with a firm commitment to Solomon Islands’ efforts on COVID-19 and ensuring the country’s economic engine keeps going.
He assured the Prime Minister that Australia will listen to the Government’s priorities and do its best to help the Government address these priorities within its ability to do so.
The Prime Minister thanked the High Commissioner for his government’s steadfast commitment and support to Solomon Islands.
He highlighted the strong friendship and mutual respect between the two countries and looks forward to continuing Australian Government support in the years to come.
The Prime Minister and the High Commissioner agreed that the two countries would continue to work together to maintain peace and security in their shared region, the Southwest Pacific.