Australian Police to Remain in Solomon Islands for Security During Sporting Event and Elections
Pacific Games and elections
The Solomon Islands government has asked Australia to keep its police officers in the Pacific Island nation until June 2024, to provide security for a regional sporting event in November and national elections in 2024.
According to a statement posted on the Solomon Islands Broadcasting’s Facebook page on Friday, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare made a formal request to his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese on Aug. 4, and received a positive response.
Sogavare said the security support was needed for both the Pacific Games, which will be held in November and will attract 5,000 athletes from 24 countries, and the general elections, which will be held in 2024.
He said Australia’s assistance would fill the security gaps before, during and after the two important events.
The statement also said that the two leaders would continue to discuss a “comprehensive security partnership beyond June 2024”.
International security contingent
Australia is a major aid partner and has a long-standing security relationship with the Solomon Islands, which is a former British protectorate and gained independence in 1978.
The Australian police are part of an international security contingent that also includes officers from Fiji and New Zealand, who arrived in the Solomon Islands in December 2021 to quell anti-government riots that erupted after Sogavare survived a no-confidence vote.
The security contingent was initially supposed to leave in December 2023, but Sogavare requested an extension until June 2024.
In June, Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles visited the Solomon Islands and offered policing support for the 2024 elections. He also said that Sogavare had called for a review of a 2017 security treaty between the two countries, which covers defence, police and maritime cooperation.
The Solomon Islands’ request for extended Australian security assistance comes amid growing concern from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand over China’s increasing influence and presence in the Pacific region.
China has stepped up its funding for infrastructure projects in the Solomon Islands, after Sogavare switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, following a controversial referendum.
In July, Sogavare visited Beijing and upgraded a policing deal with China to cover community policing and cyber security. He also signed a security pact with China last year, which raised alarm in Canberra and Washington about Beijing’s naval ambitions.
The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have called for transparency over China’s proposed security role in the Solomon Islands, and have urged Sogavare to respect human rights and democracy.
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