Dec 18, 2017 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Dec 12, 2017

Battle for power

Australian, Japanese firms fight over deposits

THIS year marks the 70th year of the end of the war in the Solomons. Yet the battle over natural resources in these islands ended in the courts just months ago and there were no winners.

In fact the biggest loser has been the Solomon Islands in terms of lost opportunities for investment and job creation. The Australian media has tried to portray this as an epic David versus Goliath battle. In this case a small Australian mining company has been stripped of its rights to one of the Pacific’s biggest greenfield nickel laterite deposits, after a decision by the Solomon Islands Court of Appeal.

ASX-listed Axiom Mining has battled long and hard with the Japanese giant, Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) Solomon Islands Limited for control of the deposit in Isabel Province. Three overseas judges of the Solomon Islands Court of Appeal quashed ministerial approval of Axiom’s prospecting licences, finding that the transfer of land registration to Axiom’s landowner partners had not been completed properly and so was invalid.

“It is a setback, but it is not a major or material setback from our point of view,” said Axiom Mining’s chief executive officer Ryan Mount. ‘Most important case’ on land since independence.”

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Solomon Islands after RAMSI

ON June 30 the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) came to an end. Established in July, 2003, RAMSI has been a feature of life in Solomon Islands for more than a third of its history as an independent country. While much of what follows is anecdotal, recent visits to Honiara have provided some insight into the mood among Solomon Islanders as the end of RAMSI approaches.

The operation has been in a gradual wind-down since 2013 and is now much less visible that it was in earlier years. Even so, RAMSI still looms large in the minds of Solomon Islanders. RAMSI will be leaving Solomon Islands in an atmosphere of general goodwill.

The Solomon Islands government is planning a series of events to mark the end of RAMSI in late June. These will be the occasion for sincere and heartfelt expressions of gratitude for RAMSI’s role in restoring the rule of law and the functioning of government in Solomon Islands. Much stress will—rightly—be placed on the regional nature of RAMSI’s composition.

Although RAMSI couldn’t have been mounted or sustained without Australian funding and personnel, it was the participation of all of Solomon Islands’ Pacific neighbours in RAMSI that gave it its particular character, and lent it genuine legitimacy in the eyes of Solomon Islanders.

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Solomons stays unique

Islands Business talks to Freda Unusi, Solomons Islands Tourism Bureau’s marketing manager about the isand nation’s aspirations and tourism strategies IB: So the Solomons has the cleanest air in the world!

UNUSI: We just heard yesterday. We’re first and New Zealand is second according to the WHO.

IB: What does that mean for the Solomon islands as a desination?

UNUSI: Wow! That’s a catch phrase for us – If you want to relax and have clean, healthy air, come to the Solomons.

IB: How do you keep it that way?

UNUSI: I know! Well, for a start the logging industry is big in the Solomons so perhaps what we have to do now that they have announced that (but it’s slowly depleting. So we have no option but to revert to what we have in our lifetsyle and everything else...

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Spotlight on Honiara

Region watches as assistance mission comes to an end

AT the end of June, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands will come to an end. What started off as a military operation to quell violence and return the country to democracy after the ethnic tensions of 2000 will be no more and normality will return. Or will it?

When politically-fuelled ethnic tensions were literally fanned into flame in 2000, the Happy Isles as the Solomons are commonly known eruoted into violence and bloodshed. The Chinese community – mostly traders – bore the brunt of ferocious attacks and were evacuated by chartered flights to safety after much of China Town was torched or looted by angry mobs. Troops from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga made up the core of the military stabilisation force which responded to the plea for help to calm tensions and bring about a return to democracy.

This was the second regional stabilisation mission since the South Pacific Peacekeeping Forces was deployed to Bougainville after a truce singned in 1997 ended the civil war on the island. Pacific nations also supported a New Zealand and Australian-led monitoring mission with military capabilities in East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1999-2000. The concept of regional assistance was relied upon when the Solomon Islands sough help.

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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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