MOTI WILL BE DEPORTED: SOLOMONS PRIME MINISTER

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 20) - New Solomon Islands prime minister Dr. Derek Sikua has promised to send the country’s attorney-general Julian Moti back to Australia, where he is wanted for child sex charges.

Dr. Sikua was elected prime minister yesterday, replacing Manasseh Sogavare, who was ousted last week in a vote of no-confidence.

Mr. Sogavare is very close to Moti, and even wrote to the PNG Government seeking his release when Moti was arrested in Port Moresby in October last year.

Moti was somehow released and flown out of Port Moresby to Solomon Islands secretly in a PNGDF plane, to escape arrest by Australian police.

An inquiry launched implicated Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and other senior officials in wrongdoings, but the findings of this inquiry are being challenged in the Supreme Court.

Relations between PNG and Australia, soured over this affair, are on the mend with Kevin Rudd replacing John Howard as prime minister.

Solomon Islands is also moving quickly to mend ties with Australia, with Sikua announcing the imminent deportation of Moti.

"Moti is a citizen of Australia and he will be sent back (to Australia)," he told reporters after being sworn in.

He said this would happen as soon as he appoints a new foreign affairs and immigrations minister.

Moti appeared unmoved when contacted by a Solomon Star newspaper reporter yesterday.

"I’m still working. I’m used to working under pressure," he was reported as telling the reporter.

The National contacted Moti on his mobile phone, but he switched the phone off after saying ‘hello’ a number of times.

Asked if Moti was welcomed to Port Moresby, an official from the Prime Minister’s office responded by questioning why Moti would want to come to PNG.

Soon after being declared the PM-elect, Sikua said he was committed to delivering the development needs of 80 percent of Solomon Islander who live in villages.

He polled 32 votes to beat Paterson Oti who polled 15 votes.

He urged Mr. Oti and Mr. Sogavare to work with him for the betterment of their country.

Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to PNG Bernard Bata’anisia said yesterday he was confident relations between the two countries would continue to be strong.

"Solomon Islands regards PNG as its closest Melanesian neighbor, whom its shares a common maritime boundary and over the years have seen an increase in people to people contacts, trade and investment and social and cultural ties between the two countries. It is Solomon Islands desire to expand on these relations."

Mr. Bata’anisia also said that PNG’s contribution to the Regional Assistance to Solomon Islands (Ramsi) since its inception in 2003 had been valued greatly.

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