ALEXANDER DOWNER: OPEN LETTER TO SOLOMON ISLANDS

Open Letter

Alexander Downer Minister For Foreign Affairs Government of Australia Parliament House Canberra, Australia

July 13, 2007

I would like to express Australia’s strong objection to the swearing in of Julian Moti, an Australian citizen facing serious charges in Australia, as Solomon Islands Attorney-General.

Australia has deep concerns at the implications of this move for governance in Solomon Islands, and calls on the Solomon Islands Government to reverse the move.

Australia had hoped that common sense would have prevailed in this case.

The appointment of Moti flies in the face of strong opposition in Solomon Islands from legal figures and the wider community.

We understand there are serious questions about the constitutionality of the move, given that the Public Service Commission suspended Mr Moti as Attorney General in October 2006.

Australia believes this appointment is a large backwards step for governance in Solomon Islands.

This is another move in a pattern of intimidation and removal of key constitutional office holders - from offices which are designed to ensure the Government is accountable for its actions.

A respected Solomon Islander was dismissed as Attorney-General late last year, and the Solicitor-General, a deployee with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), was forced to leave the country after receiving personal threats.

Solomon Islands declared the Police Commissioner an "undesirable immigrant" while he was out of the country, bypassing due process for his removal.

The Solomon Islands Government continues, through its actions, to damage the country’s reputation, both regionally and internationally.

Australia calls on the Government to restore Solomon Islands’ respectability in the eyes of the international community.

Australia remains strongly committed to RAMSI.

We will be watching very carefully any actions taken by Julian Moti as Attorney-General, including actions which could affect the ability of RAMSI to undertake its work effectively and independently for the benefit of the people of Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands Government needs to ensure the integrity of remaining constitutional office-holders - for example the Chief Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions - is maintained.

Australia lodged a full formal extradition request with the Solomon Islands Government, seeking the return to Australia of Mr Moti, on 15 December 2006.

We expect the Solomon Islands Government to process our request in accordance with Solomon Islands extradition law, and will continue to seek Mr Moti’s extradition vigorously.

We have made various attempts to hold discussions with the Solomon Islands Government on the Moti issue.

I have invited Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Oti to travel to Australia with other ministers for discussions on issues affecting the bilateral relationship.

We have not received a response. Australia also agreed to a visit by Acting Solomon Islands Attorney-General Tongarutu to discuss Moti’s extradition. Solomon Islands cancelled visits by Tongarutu at the last minute on two occasions.

The Solomon Islands Government has refused to discuss the issue, and has disregarded Australia’s legitimate request.

We appreciate that the people of Solomon Islands are going through a difficult period. Australia aims to support them achieve their aspirations for a peaceful, well-governed and prosperous nation.

It is time the Solomon Islands Government reversed the downward trend in governance in its country, showed respect for Australia as a friendly neighbour, and acted in the best interests of its people.

Honourable Alexander Downer Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister

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