GEORGE NEGUS: Joining me now by phone from Honiara is the leader of the Socred Party, Manasseh Sogavare – himself a former prime minister and one of the defectors who today suddenly deserted the Rini camp.
Mr Manasseh Sogavare thank you very much for your time, because I realise these are busy moments for you. Am I speaking to the next Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE, SOCRED PARTY LEADER: I am hoping that will happen on Tuesday next week when we go for the elections.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you do have the numbers? You and your friends that today we thought it was going to be Snyder Rini who would continue, but you and your friends at managed to get the numbers and you are the man?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Well that’s right we move to the other camp to actually fulfil the request of the people. That is to ask the Prime Minister to resign and the constitutional way of doing that is to go to the floor of the parliament and the Prime Minister consented to that and actually resigned on the floor of parliament.
GEORGE NEGUS: Is that why you defected this morning because, overnight probably you knew that the numbers were there and there was no point in the no confidence motion because Snyder Rini knew he did not have the numbers?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Well we that all along that will eventually happen when the motion of no confidence was tabled by the opposition. Our group who actually gave the power, the number to the Prime Minister’s camp to win the last”¦sorry, at the election for the Prime Minister. Actually we planned that when that motion was tabled we would cross the floor to give the numbers to the opposition to effect, that that motion to let it through. And that is exactly what we did today.
GEORGE NEGUS: Exactly why did you cross the floor, what is so wrong, so unacceptable about a prime ministership with Snyder Rini. Why do you think you responded to the wishes of the people? What was so bad about any government that he might lead?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Well the people have spoken loud and clear on this occasion about corruption and we have to leave this to the proper institutions to deal with. But what we have in hand was actually chaos on the street – people looting shops and actually burning down buildings and we cannot allow that to happen. You might appreciate that when we talk about the Solomon Islands in the Solomon Islands you are basically talking about many structures which are the commercial centre so if you subject those to things like that, that is basically the economy gone. And also this potential of people may be moving on to other groups in the country. They side with the Asians and who knows. If things don’t go the way they wanted it could move to other ethnic groups and that would not be good for the image of the Solomon Islands. There are a lot of factors to be taken into account.
GEORGE NEGUS: So do you believe that after today’s developments, that’s behind you? That the violence is behind you, the racial discrimination is behind you? Do you think that now you can move to some sort of law and order that obviously has been missing in the last week or so.
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: And that is correct and we are definitely sure that is behind us. We are now looking forward to going to parliament and to win the election and eventually form the government to move this country forward.
GEORGE NEGUS: Mr Sogavare what about opposition politicians who were arrested by the Australian authorities in fact, what happens to them now, will they be released?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: No they are still behind bars and of course our lawyers are actually putting a case to request their bail and we are yet to get the results. Maybe tomorrow we will definitely hear what happened to them. But without them we feel that we still have the numbers to win the elections next week.
GEORGE NEGUS: You in the past had been very critical of Australia’s involvement in your country. You’re fearful that this was merely a re-colonisation, as you put it, of the Solomon Islands. You were in fact quite openly opposed to the occupation if you like, to the role Australia has been playing in your country. Do you still feel that?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: I think that is a representation of what I actually said in Parliament. I mean to say that I am openly opposed to Australia is not be corrected. That would make me a total hypocrite because I actually asked for intervention as well in 2000 when the Peace Agreement was broken with Australia. What I am concerned about and is sheared by many in the Solomon Islands is if we are really concerned about a lasting peace in the Solomon Islands we must attend to the underlying issues that caused the ethnic crisis. That is basically my concern and a concern of other Solomon Islanders as well.
GEORGE NEGUS: What do you mean by ethnic crisis?
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: Well what happened in the year 2000 was the result of people demanding that the government address the local demand that they put to the government since 1978, again in 1988 and repeated in 1998. And it was basically carelessness throughout those years and these underlying issues need to be addressed if you are really seriously concerned about longterm stability of the country. And my concern is that and the concern of other Solomon Islanders as well is that if intervention is to be any good to last and to address the problem of the country, the underlying issues need to be taken into account and addressed.
GEORGE NEGUS: Mr Sogavare thank you for your time. We look forward to speaking to you officially as Prime Minister of your country.