Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has lashed out at Australia describing its offer to fund the National General Election as attempting to directly interfere “with our domestic affairs.”
At the same time, he said Australia must be ready to fund electoral reforms and the next NGE.
The government stated that it could not afford to host the NGE next year and the Pacific Games at the same due to human and financial resources. This has resulted in a bill now being debated in Parliament to extend the dissolution of the current house to end of December 2023 and not in May as it should be.
In this regard, Australia had offered to fund the government host next year’s NGE.
But that didn’t go well with Sogavare this morning when speaking during the second reading of the bill.
“Yes, Australian foreign minister (Penny Wong) has announced that Australia is willing to fund the NGE. This is after the MP for East Are’are told ABC, Australia should fund the NGE.
“Whilst we appreciate the offer. I am extremely, extremely disappointed about the timing and manner of the offer. The offer was made to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on September 1 after the Bill was tabled in Parliament on 5th of August. We have yet to formally respond to the offer on a request from the MP for East Are’are on behalf of the Opposition,” he said.
Sogavare continued: “Yet the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister issued a public statement announcing the offer on the next working day following when the Foreign Minister officially received the offer to fund the NGE. Our further concern is that it was announced on the day when this bill was read for the first time.”
Sogavare said parliament is yet to make a decision on it.
“The announcement by the Australian Foreign Minister is seen by the SI government as attempting to directly interfere with our domestic affairs especially when it is a matter is before this very house,” said the Prime Minister.
He said his government will be making diplomatic representation in due course.
“We will response to Australia’s offer after parliament disposes of this bill. We look forward to Australia’s offer to assist us fund electoral reforms and the conduct of national election. You have offered so be ready to fund it. You offered— be prepared to give us the money you offered,” Sogavare said.
Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale this morning said: “As to whether Solomon Islands can afford to host both events in the same year, I have only this to say – yes, we can, with the support of our donor partners who have said as much. Australia has offered to fully fund the elections. So this excuse is no longer relevant to this debate.”