US ambassador in Solomons warns of aid that goes into “a bank account” – archyde

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was accused by the opposition leader in parliament last week of using money from a national development fund from China to bolster his political strength. He has denied transplant allegations.

Sogavare has blamed foreign powers that opposed its 2019 decision to transfer diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China for influencing anti-government protesters from Malaita province.

The underdeveloped Malaita has always been at odds with the Guadalcanal province, which is the seat of the national government, and refused to move in 2019. It banned Chinese construction and business and accepted a US $ 25 million aid program in 2020.

Protesters in Malaita last month sparked riot among residents of the capital, Honiara, where there is dissatisfaction that foreign companies are not providing local jobs. Large parts of Chinatown burned down.

In her first public comment on the riots, US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu Erin McKee said in a statement that the loss of life and property in Honiara were tragic and “should not have happened “.

McKee said the U.S. aid project stemmed from an exchange of letters between Sogavare and then-U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and aid and defense officials traveled to the Solomon Islands in August 2019.

The Solomon Islands cut ties with Taiwan and recognized China the next month. After the conversion, there were delays in the US project. It has since started work, although the entry of US Peace Corps volunteers is still under negotiation.

US aid companies worked in partnership with communities so that they could build local infrastructure such as roads and maintain them “unaided,” the statement said.

“Do you want help that benefits a person, a party, and a bank account? Or do you want help that strengthens entire families, strengthens entire communities, and enriches entire nations? ”She said.

“As a democratic and independent state, you have a choice of who you want to work with. And I think the choice is obvious. “

The Chinese Embassy, ​​which opened in Honiara last September, announced on its website that hundreds of Chinese families have been left homeless as a result of the unrest.

“Any attempt to sabotage the relationship is doomed to fail,” he added.

Over 200 police officers and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are in Honiara at the request of Sogavare to maintain order.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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