‘Dangerous’: Expert Pans Move To Donate Guns, Armored Vehicles To Pro-Beijing Solomons Leader
Authored by Daniel Y. Teng via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
An image of armoured police vehicles gifted to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force under by the Australian Defence Force during a gifting ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands on Nov. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of the Australian Federal Police)
The Australian Labor government’s decision to gift weapons and armoured vehicles to the Solomons government has been branded “ill-conceived and dangerous” by Pacific expert Cleo Paskal, saying the move is pushing the country one step closer towards civil war.
On Nov. 2, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) delivered training and around $1.3 million (US$740,000) worth of equipment to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
In a gifting ceremony, the RSIPF delivered 13 armoured police vehicles and 60 Daniels Defense MK18 rifles, according to an AFP statement.
Four vehicles will be part of a new Mobile Protection Unit that will provide the RSIPF with a “high-visibility presence” in the community and manage any “security threats and incidents” to critical infrastructure.
An image of Daniels Defence MK18 rifles gifted to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force under by the Australian Defence Force during a gifting ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands on Nov. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of the Australian Federal Police)An image of an armoured police vehicle gifted to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force by the Australian Defence Force during a gifting ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Nov. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of the Australian Federal Police)
The move drew a sharp response from the leader of the Solomon Islands’ opposition, Matthew Wale.
“Sucking up to [Prime Minister] Soga and trying to out-compete China! For use, where, and when?” he wrote on Twitter.
Keeping the Solomons ‘Safe’
Clinton Smith, acting commander of the AFP, said the package helped keep communities “safe and secure.”
“The AFP is proud to be the Solomon Islands’ security partner of choice and will continue to work closely with RSIPF officers to ensure they are trained and equipped to provide the Solomon Islands community with an efficient, modern police force,” he said in a statement.
While Australia’s High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan said, the handover was another landmark in the ongoing security arrangement between both countries.
“We have been with each other through thick and thin. As Prime Minister Sogavare has said, our partnership is based on our shared duty to ensure that our region remains peaceful, prosperous, and stable,” he said.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare standing next to Australian High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan along with members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and Australian Defence Force during a gifting ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Nov. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of the Australian Federal Police)An image of armoured police vehicles gifted to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force under by the Australian Defence Force during a gifting ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands on Nov. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of the Australian Federal Police)
The rearmament of the RSIPF first started in 2013 with a commitment from Australia to rearm a “limited number of officers” to ensure the RSIPF was able to deal with criminal threats. The latest move is Phase Two of the rearmament program.
Beijing was quick to respond, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announcing a further donation—on top of existing commitments—of two water cannon trucks and other vehicles to the RSIPF.
Solomons PM Playing Both Sides
Beijing has ramped up bilateral ties with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare since his government decided to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan for Beijing in 2019.
Since then, Sogavare has moved steadily to shore up power and deepen relations with the CCP.
In August 2021, Sogavare gave “grants” to 39 of 50 MPs in the national parliament—enough to change the Constitution—using money from a Beijing-backed slush fund.
In April 2022, Sogavare signed a security pact with Beijing that would allow the CCP to station troops, weapons, and naval ships in the country.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meets with the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavar,e in Canberra, Australia, on Oct. 6, 2022. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)
In September, the prime minister managed to secure enough votes to delay the country’s federal election—an election he may lose—claiming the government did not have enough resources to host the 2023 Pacific Games and run a national vote simultaneously.
“For over a year, he’s been making major moves to show he has no intention of holding an election he will lose and that he is arming himself for the civil war that will result, with the help of his patron China and, inexplicably, Australia,” said Cleo Paskal, Pacific expert and non-resident fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in an email to The Epoch Times.
The Australian Labor government has continued a “soft power” offensive—concurrent to similar efforts by the U.S. Biden administration—to win over the Sogavare government, including an SB$100 million pledge to fund the Pacific Games, delivering more regional aid, and now, offering more weaponry.
“Canberra is in an elite capture race with China that it will lose,” she added. “It’s not going to be able to bribe more, send more weapons, and give international cover to someone who seems on track to kill his fellow citizens. That’s China’s thing, not Australia’s (one hopes).”
Paskal has long warned that Sogavare plans to trigger some form of civil unrest that will allow his government to deploy the military to consolidate power and delay elections inevitably—a move that has long-term benefits for Beijing.
Make Peace, Not War
However, Paskal noted Australia has the ability to use other means to win the influence war in the Pacific.
“Australia has a very good alternative—fight with ‘peacefare’—China and its authoritarian proxies hate when people come together and build stability from the ground up. That’s exactly what finally enacting the 2000 Townsville Peace Agreement would accomplish,” Paskal said.
The Townsville Peace Agreement was a roadmap that ended an ongoing civil war in the region and laid the foundation for the future of the country. However, several key steps in the Agreement have yet to be implemented.
Other suggestions around peacefare include expanding Australia and New Zealand’s migrant worker schemes to ease travel to-and-from the Pacific nations while opening up vast employment opportunities.
“This alternative future for Australia and New Zealand with our Pacific family would hold a mirror up to the model developing in Honiara under Sogavare and his Beijing backers,” wrote Michael Shoebridge, director of Strategic Analysis Australia, in The Australian newspaper.
“And it would also end Australia’s decades of failed security and aid-centred assistance to the Pacific, replacing it with a path that is sustainable.”
Mon, 11/14/2022 – 16:25