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Government’s offer of Stirling Island called premature

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 1, 2011) - Opposition Leader, Hon. Dr Derek Sikua has described Prime Minister Danny Philip’s statement expressing disappointment at Australia’s exclusion of Solomon Islands from its discussion of a new pacific solution for processing asylum seekers as embarrassing. Hon. Dr Sikua said the fact that Solomon Islands is excluded from Australia’s discussion with the pacific on the issue shows that Australia does not want us involved and the Prime Minister’s statement was belittling.

He said if there is any land to spare in Solomon Islands, then the Solomon Islands Government should give priority to Solomon Islanders suffering from sea level rise.

The Opposition Leader said any proposals that the Solomon Islands Government wants to put on the table for discussion with Australia has to be carefully thought out.

"Mindful of our obligations as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the question is "Why should Solomon Islands be part of a solution to a problem that’s never been ours?

"It is pitiful and shameful for our Prime Minister to push the country into finding a solution to a problem that’s not ours and that can be solved without our involvement.

"We do not need any more embarrassment! Australia does not want to talk to us about the issue and why bother when we have many problems of our own to solve."

The Opposition Leader said the Solomon Islands Government should not confuse the issue of asylum seekers processing centre with the need for military presence at Solomon Islands border with Papua New Guinea.

He said if the government deems the country needs assistance from Australia and New Zealand to ensure military presence at the border then it should be specific about it rather than opting to host a refugee processing centre which is a totally different matter.

Hon. Dr Sikua said if Stirling Island is customarily owned, the Danny Philip-led National Coalition for Reform and Advancement Government should at least have the courtesy of consulting with landowners before putting it on offer to Australia for the establishment of a refugee-processing centre.

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