So recently the Solomon Islands signed an agreement with China on “law enforcement and security matters”. It’s also right on the 20th anniversary of Australia and New Zealand bailing the Solomons out of a massive civil war.
From 1998 to 2003 the Solomon Islands were a cot case of violent civil conflict with over 200 fatalities.
In one typical example of mass murder, warlord Harold Keke admitted to taking hostage and then murdering six Anglican religious brothers.
So the Solomon Islands reached out for help and Australia and New Zealand got together a 2,000-strong regional law and order intervention force.
About 20 of the deaths were from fighting between militants from Guadalcanal and Malaita, and this was all set down in the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Report.
The Australian and New Zealand policing force then went about removing 3,700 weapons, arrested 773 people, laid over 1,000 charges against militants, and went on to collect a further 1,755 weapons with an international peace monitoring team and with churches.
Granted the RAMSI force wasn’t a comprehensive nation-building initiative, but it did a strong and effective job that stabilise what was a bloody mess.
In November 2021 rioters tore through Honiara and yup Australian forces were brought in to stabilise the situation again.
So now what we have from the leadership in the Solomons is signing with the Chinese government in a “comprehensive strategic partnership” that will “enhance cooperation on law enforcement and security matters. The Chinese side will continue to provide support and help to Solomon Islands as needed in strengthening Solomon Islands police law enforcement capacity.”
Now, sure should neocolonial all you like and be grateful or not for the service of Australian and New Zealand officers as is your right, but what the hell is going on?
We probably don’t need reminding that the nearby island nation of Kiribati also switched official relations to Beijing in 2019. Sogovare is just playing everyone and putting his price up each time, and it’s pathetic.
It was also in September last year that United States President Biden convened a summit of Pacific Island leaders to unveil a strategy that included climate change cooperation, maritime security, and preventing overfishing, and of course a whole bunch of funding.
It’s beset by poor governance, a highly inefficient public sector, very little capital for development, and high reliance on aid agencies, remoteness, and multi-year crises.
Sure, the Solomon Islands is a weak, mostly subsistence, high corruption state barely recovering from the ravages of COVID, and needs lots of help all the time and likely always will. It will take help and cash wherever it can get it.
But there is no reason to keep bailing the Solomons out when they can’t recognise an ally when it’s been working with them for decades.
And that’s the message Australia and New Zealand need to start delivering nice and straight.