SOGAVARE DEFENDS SOLOMONS CABINET CHOICES

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By Evan Wasuka

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 8) – A Solomon Islands Member of Parliament, behind bars allegedly on a charge of inciting riot, has been appointed the new Solomon Islands Minister of Police.

Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare last Friday announced his new Cabinet lineup with East Honiara Member of Parliament Charles Dausabea responsible for police and national security.

Mr. Dausabea, who is in remand at Rove Prison, was unable to attend the swearing in ceremony at Government House, where nineteen ministers were sworn in.

Fellow Honiara Member of Parliament Nelson Ne’e – who is also in custody on similar charges – was appointed the new Minister for Tourism and Culture.

Mr. Ne’e will appear in the Magistrates Court today while Mr. Dausabea will appear on Tuesday.

Both are accused of inciting violence that hit the capital after Snyder Rini was elected Prime Minister. Rini resigned eight days later after five of his party members defected.

Mr. Sogavare, the country’s second Prime Minister in as many weeks, said the Government would seek legal advice on how to have the pair sworn into office to allow them to carry out their parliamentary duties.

They are innocent until proven guilty, said Mr. Sogavare.

"Nothing has been proven against these two. These two Member of Parliaments are elected by the people, they are elected under the democratic process. These people (the voters) have the right to be represented," said the new Prime Minister.

Appearing on Australian television current affairs program, The Insiders, Mr. Sogavare said constitutionally there was nothing wrong with the appointments.

He said the appointments had been made through a Cabinet decision.

Mr. Sogavare also said some of the evidence against the pair were questionable and would be addressed during their trial.

Meanwhile Opposition leader Fred Fono says their appointment is a national disgrace.

"This is a mockery of the judicial and justice system. When a leader is charged he should not be given such a responsibility," said Mr. Fono. "In the past, when a minister was charged, the Prime Minister would ask them to resign to allow an investigation to proceed."

Mr. Fono said the fact that two jailed members were appointed ministers showed that the Prime Minister does not have any confidence in his five backbenchers.

He said the whole situation reflected very badly on the Prime Minister.

"As the Opposition leader I caution the Prime Minister and the Governor General against going to Rove and swearing in the two members as Ministers. We don’t want to create a precedence that is illegal and that is against our Constitution."

He says the appointments were not in line with the principles of good governance.

Mr. Fono said the Opposition would call on the Prime Minister to explain the appointments in Parliament.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has condemned the appointments.

He described the situation as a matter of deep concern and deeply disappointing.

Talking to overseas to media, Mr. Downer said he would take the matter up with the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Downer will visit Solomon Islands later this month.

May 9, 2006

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com/

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