Bishop of Gizo: ‘We don’t need war games’
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare is negotiating a security treaty with China, a source of concern in the Pacific region. Australia and New Zealand fear it will pave the way for a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands. Gizo Bishop Luciano Capelli, who bemoans the lack of consultation, sees “threats or external enemies that require a superpower capable of showing its strength.”
Gizo (AsiaNews) – Recently leaked papers suggest that the Solomon Islands and China are negotiating a security arrangement, a prospect that has alarmed both Australia and New Zealand.
Bishop Luciano Capelli of Gizo[*], a Salesian missionary, is among those concerned. In a reference to the country’s prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, he said, “People have not been consulted,”
“The implications of such an agreement are unknown, and the Solomon Islands do not need war games,” he told AsiaNews.
The possibility that China might build a military base in the Solomon Islands, the first in the region, is especially worrisome.
Speaking in in parliament, Prime Minister Sogavare called criticisms "very insulting", denying that this is part of the deal.
"The Security Treaty is at the request of the Solomon Islands, and we have not been pressured ... in any way by our new friends," he told parliament. “We have no intention, Mr Speaker, of pitching into any geopolitical power struggle,”.
"In moving towards our security needs, we need to diversify ... we are a country that has limited security capabilities and it is clear we will constantly need support.”
In November 2021, Honiara, the country’s capital, was shaken by riots in the city’s Chinatown, a symptom of discontent against Sogavare, who broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2019 to boost ties with China. Order was restored by an Australian-led peacekeeping force.
“Events in Chinatown have nothing to do with China; they were caused by people who opposed the current government,” explained Bishop Capelli. “The riots were stopped by an Australian intervention.”
"The whole question of relations with China should instead be seen in relation to how Beijing is moving throughout the Pacific and beyond, also in Africa and South America.
“As bishop of the Church in the Western Province, I do not see threats or external enemies that require a superpower capable of showing its strength. We only have some domestic ethnic problems or looting in the city.
“The Australians are doing a good job. The Solomon Islands don’t need war games or superpowers trying their bombs here. People have had enough of what happened 70 years ago.”
[*] Capital of the Solomon Islands’ Western Province.