The Solomon Islands Prime Minister has launched a tirade in parliament, suggesting Australia and its allies are deliberately trying to undermine his government, criticising the Western response to Russia’s invasion and praising China’s treatment of Christians.
- Manasseh Sogavare said groups in Solomon Islands which criticised the security pact were “racists” and “bigots”
- He referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying there were “two sides to every situation”
- He also said Christianity was “thriving” in China because believers followed government rules
Manasseh Sogavare has also ratcheted up his criticism of civil society groups in Solomon Islands, suggesting that they are being manipulated by foreign countries and declaring they have “fallen prey to the Western world”.
The Prime Minister’s furious denunciation of the West — which was delivered to the parliament of Solomon Islands yesterday — has consolidated fears in Canberra about the trajectory of Mr Sogavare’s government, with one official telling the ABC the leader is becoming increasingly autocratic and hostile to Australia after signing a security pact with China.
Civil society groups in Solomon Islands have criticised the security pact, and say they are concerned by the prospect of Chinese troops or police entering Solomon Islands to suppress future protests.
But Mr Sogavare told parliament those activists were “racists” and “bigots” deeply hostile to China who were being manipulated by “foreign masters”.
“What we are concerned with … is the glaring hypocrisy which bleeds through the strategies employed by some of our partners, working with some of their agents on the ground, to give the government a hard time for non-justifiable reasons,” he said.
Mr Sogavare also appeared to mock Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who referred to Solomon Islands as a “little Cuba” after news of the draft security treaty broke.
That seemed to be a reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the United States put up a naval blockade to prevent the Soviet Union from building nuclear missile silos in Cuba, close to US shores.
Mr Sogavare said the USSR was “not the aggressor” during the 1962 crisis and drew a comparison to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
“There [are] two sides to every situation we see happening in the world today, including the Ukraine crisis, where the Western world is trying to get every nation to condemn,” he said.
“There [are] two sides to every story.”
He also defended China, saying there were “no beggars” on the streets of its major cities, unlike in the West.
Some Solomon Islands MPs and civil society groups have criticised the Chinese government’s intensifying and repeated crackdowns on Christians under President Xi Jinping.
But Mr Sogavare said the faith was “thriving” in China because believers followed the rules set by government.
“I don’t know where these people are coming from, but talking about Christian values … there are more than 120 million real practising Christians in China. Our own churches? 500,000. Half a million,” he said.
“This is more serious practising Christians in China than the entire population of the Pacific Island nations including Australia and New Zealand put together. Yes, there are rules. There are restrictions.”
“But Christianity is thriving because they obey the authorities.”
Mr Sogavare also seemed to latch onto a piece written by an Australian analyst which suggested that the federal government might need to launch an invasion of Solomon Islands if China moved to set up a military base in the country.
No government figure in Australia has publicly raised the prospect of invasion.
But Mr Sogavare seemed to suggest that option was being contemplated in Australia, saying Solomon Islands had received a “touching warning of military intervention”.
“In other words, we are threatened with invasion. Now that’s serious,” he said.