Apr 30, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 AM, Apr 12, 2017

SOLOMON Islands preparation toward hosting the 2023 Pacific Games could harmonise the deep political division between China and Taiwan. Well, that is if both countries decide to assist Solomon Islands build the needed infrastructure before the premier ‘Olympic’ type Games for the South Pacific region.

The least we expect is for the two countries to halt their assistance to Solomon Islands toward the Games and leave the host with no proper sports infrastructure constructed before the 2023 Pacific Games. The gap between the powerful People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan could be narrowed if they both agreed to assist Solomon Islands As it stands, Solomon Islands does not have proper stadiums and sports facilities to be able host the Pacific Games with less than seven years to go.

Solomon Islands has only six years to identify venues and build the main sports stadium and other sports facilities to cater for the 24 sports it will host in 2023. With 33 years of diplomatic ties with ROC of Taiwan, Solomon Islands has agreed on a deal with Taipei for the release of SBD $1.6 million to build the main stadium for the Pacific Games.

The Taiwanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr David Tawai Lee in July 2016 said Taipei will work with Honiara to ensure Solomon Islands successful hosting of the 2023 Pacific Games. Pacific neighbours Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea who have diplomatic ties to Mainland China have successfully hosted past Games due largely to financial assistance from Peoples Republic of China.

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The big push North

THE Chinese and Indian markets has been the focus of many Pacific hotels, airlines and travel companies at a tourism exchange on the Gold Coast last month. Chinese tour companies who attended the Bank South Pacific –sponsored Australian Tourism Exchange were prime targets for the Pacific because of the growing affluence of those markets. Despite a recent slowdown in China’s economy, its growing middle class with the means to travel is a potential major source market for the region.

“There was a huge number of Chinese tourism buyers at the Australian Tourism Exchange and they are looking for destinations which the Pacific can offer,” said South Pacific Tourism Organisation Acting CEO, Alisi Lutu. Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa Tuamoto, said opportunities existed for partnerships between Pacific destinations to access more of the Asian market. “China is big, very big and not all Pacific countries have the flight connections or the rooms needed to cater for such a large market,” Tuamoto said. “But working together it’s possible for various destinations to take a small number of Chinese visitors each and then move them on to the next country.”

Fiji is the only Pacific destination other than Australia or New Zealand with direct links to China. The big push North ‘ ‘ Papua New Guinea and Fiji have direct flights to Singapore and Hong Kong while PNG also has services to Indonesia and the Philippines. Tuamoto said the challenge was for Pacific airlines, tour companies and destinations to work together to develop attractive, efficient and cost effective packages for visitors.

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ANY minister of backbenchers who wish to desert Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in late 2015 would be forcefully bought back by former militants. “Or if they could not find the Minister or Backbencher, then they will go to his or her home and kidnap his wife or children,” Leader of the Independent Group and former Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua said this in a chilling revelation of what he believes was the main reason behind the controversial payment of $3million cash to former members of now disbanded Malaita Eagles Force (MEF).

Dr. Derek also alleged the use of guns being mentioned if the need arises for Sogavare to hold on to power at the helm of Solomon Islands politics. He claimed the $3million payment to former MEF members was made to keep a promise PM Sogavare made to former militants. He alleged the payment was made in return for the strengthening of his (Sogavare’s) government during the recent political instability. “I am of the view that the decision to make cash payment to some former MEF militants by the PM and the DCC Government was a knee-jerk reaction to a calculated move orchestrated by the PM himself around late October or early November last year...

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WITH a party revolt and threats of confidence motion keeping him occupied for the best of 2015, it looks like Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will spend 2016 doing the same thing, keeping ahead of the rest and anticipating any moves by his opponents to bring his government down. It barely survived a revolt in late October when in a master stroke, seven of his ruling coalition – all members of his cabinet -- handed in their resignations and crossed the floor to join the opposition.

It included Sogavare’s deputy Douglas Ete, and his education minister, himself a former prime minister, Dr Derek Sikua. Just as the opposition began their countdown for a change in government by lodging a confidence motion against Sogavare to the country’s Speaker of Parliament, Sogavare, showing his shrewdness as a master tactician, made his move.

With his government parliamentary numbers down to 23 through the defection of his seven ministers, Sogavare announced the appointment of seven new ministers, as well as the reshuffle of portfolios for two of his serving ministers. Six of the new ministers were defectors from the opposition; they were all independent members of the opposition but obviously responded to Sogavare’s overtures and crossed the floor, boosting the ruling coalition’s numbers in the legislature from 23 to 29, a clear majority in the 50-seat parliament.

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SOLOMON Islanders will be feeling the worst brunt of the current El Niño period this month (December) and through to early next year. The long drought has affected the country following three months without rain from August. Despite some drizzles of hope in the capital Honiara in early November, the relief was short-lived. Solomon Islands Meteorological Services (SIMS) warned the weather was drier than normal rainfall across the country from August to October.

The current El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will reach its peak this month (December) and slightly decrease from January 2016 on-wards, it said. Following SIMS weather outlook report, the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office issued two Situational Reports (SITREP) last month with plans of intervention in expectation for the worst. Director of NDMO Loti Yates said key government sector agencies on Agriculture, Health, Education and technical agencies like Meteorology and Hydrology together with the disaster management stakeholders have already convened series of meetings to consider the most appropriate response.

“The regional precipitation outlook for the Solomon Islands from November to January is below normal, this means that less rainfall will be experienced in this period,” Yates said.

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