Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare defends his 30 member delegation trip to China.
Smiling through it all, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare defends the China trip. Addressing the press in response to the allegations leveled against his office, Prime Minister Sogavare says the expense of the trip is nothing compared to the benefits the country will receive in the future.
The Office of the Leader of the Opposition recently revealed documents highlighting the cost of the trip to China and questioning the relevance of such a large delegation, especially when it comes at the expense of taxpayers.
But in defense of the China trip, Sogavare says “It’s just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the benefits that we will get from this trip,” Prime Minister Sogavare stated.
According to Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. Jimmie Rodgers, the trip was funded by the People’s Republic of China. He explained, “They covered the entire trip from here to China and back. Initially, we only paid for the flight from Brisbane to here. But they are covering that as well.”
Rodgers further stated that the PRC will refund the money spent by the government on the delegation’s trip. He admitted not knowing where the expenditure of 1.3 million dollars came from, clarifying that the government only paid for the per diems of the delegates.
Opposition Leader Matthew Wale criticized the large number of delegates and questioned why taxpayers should pay for “tourists” when there are pressing issues affecting Solomon Islanders and public servants in the country.
In a jovial mood and keen on maintaining a positive atmosphere, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced the agreements signed in China, emphasizing that the interests of Solomon Islanders are at the forefront of all these agreements.
“There’s 84 million dollars to help 50 constituencies in rural development, including Aoke/Langalanga,” Sogavare revealed.
Discussions and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed in China cover various areas, such as agriculture, aviation, climate change, disaster management, education, sports, tourism, and trade. Prime Minister Sogavare emphasized that China has become one of the biggest infrastructure partners in Solomon Islands and remains the country’s largest trading partner. He highlighted that nine agreements and MOUs were signed in China, including the implementation plan of police cooperation, disaster risk reduction and emergency response, weather office early warning activities, promotion of international trade and investment, technology, and agriculture.
Solomon Islands established diplomatic ties to China in 2019 much to the dismay of many Solomon Islanders including the Opposition Leader, Matthew Wale.
This recent trip marked the second visit for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. He continues to defend the relationship Solomon Islands has now with China, maintaining the government’s foreign policy of being “friends to all, enemies to none.”
“This means we do not take sides, especially in geopolitics and political power play by bigger countries. Our one and only objective is development. Our engagement with donor partners, both bilateral and multilateral, is for development. I’m disappointed that our sovereignty is disrespected and good faith questioned,” Sogavare expressed his frustration.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by his wife, several government ministers, backbenchers, government officials, and a few members of the private sector.