| The Sunday Guardian | Extracts
NEW DELHI - In September 2019, the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The central government made the decision without public consultation, and it was widely unpopular, particularly in the most populous province, Malaita.
The premier of Malaita, Daniel Suidani, stated his concern that if the central government grew closer to Beijing, the Solomons would become more like China—more authoritarian, more prone to destructive resource extraction, more religious oppression, less options and rights for citizens.
In the two years since the CCP moved in, he’s been proven right.
Newly arrived Chinese, working for Chinese companies, have distorted the economy, contributing to unemployment, coercion and corruption.
Suidani, concerned about the effect on the people, society and environment, has tried to keep Chinese companies out of his province.
The central government has punished him, in part by withholding viable development projects.
A petition to the central government from thousands of Malaitans has outlined a range of other punishments visited on their province, including that the central “government continually harasses the [local] government of Malaita through individuals, the media and even through the abuse of legal process”.
Respected senior leader Peter Kenilorea Jr, former permanent secretary of the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade said: “We in the Pacific Islands say we are on the front line of climate change—we are also on the front line of the aggression from the Chinese Communist Party.
“The political warfare is on. The geopolitical front line is in our tiny nation of the Solomon Islands, and even within the provinces within the Solomons. We have one province [Malaita] that has been targeted and harassed—this is a real everyday occurrence.”
A political showdown came on 27 October when local proxies of the pro-Chinese factions in the central government tried to table a vote of no confidence against Premier Suidani in the Malaita provincial legislature.
What happened next was described by Kenilorea:
“Thousands of Malaita Province people took to the streets in Auki, the administrative capital of the province in a powerful show of solidarity in support for premier Daniel Suidani.
“Villagers with very little money contributed towards purchase of fuel for transportation into Auki. The people called on their respective members of the provincial assembly to support premier Suidani.
“Their frustration over the inaction of their elected representatives to move towards showing support for Suidani reached a boil-over point.
“That their elected representatives still decided to go against the wishes of their respective electorates was an indication that promises of riches would have been made to these elected representatives to have made them so stubborn in the face of clear calls from their respective electorates to not move the motion and support premier Suidani.
“These elected representatives who filed the motion stayed together in a hotel surrounded by security detail. They were definitely funded to have such logistical details in place.
“The police, fearing the real possibility of the breakout of violence, brokered a withdrawal of the motion with the mover.
“The motion of no confidence filed against premier Suidani was withdrawn on the same day it was to be tabled. This was a wise and timely decision by the police and all the leaders concerned. This action averted certain violence erupting in Auki.
“The withdrawal of the motion was seen as a crushing defeat to the sponsors of the motion against Suidani, which included, the national government and the CCP.”
The CCP doesn’t take crushing defeats well—especially ones that show the power of democracy in the face of coercion. The people of Malaita fought their own battle but, in the process, they fought for us all. They showed you can stand up for what’s right, and win. It’s Beijing’s worst nightmare.
Given the CCP’s doctrine of unrestricted warfare, it is only a matter of time before it comes back, hard, from multiple vectors, and tries to complete the takeover. Just a few days ago, the newly registered Solomon Islands Chinese Business Council met the prime minister.
The people of Malaita—and the many others in the Solomons trying to keep their country free—need support of all sorts. They need other countries to ask the central government to explain what it’s doing.
They need diplomatic support. They need training and education programs. And they really, really need development, investment and supply chains that aren’t run by Beijing.
Cleo Paskal is a non-resident senior fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies