Solomons PM’s Early Pacific Island Forum Exit Ridiculed

Solomom Star details adversarial relationship with Office of the Prime Minister's Akwai, claims of attempts to channel flow of information to preferred outlets and journalists

By Teddy Kafo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, September 15, 2017) – Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was forced to cut short his trip to the Samoan capital Apia last week for the 48th Pacific Islands Forum last week “due to domestic political moves to remove him from office”.

This was the explanation provided by the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Maliegagoe at a press conference last Thursday when asked why his Solomon Islands counterpart Prime Minister Sogavare and the President of the Federated States of Micronesia Peter Christian made premature exits from the summit.

The Solomon Star obtained an audio recording of the press conference.

The summit included the Smaller Island States Leaders’ Meeting on Monday 4th September, the Pacific ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Leaders’ Meeting and Official Opening of the Forum Summit on Tuesday 5th September, the Forum Leaders’ Dialogue with Civil Society Organisations and Private Sector on Wednesday 6th September, the 48th Forum Plenary Sessions with Associate Members Observers and Post Forum Dialogue Partners on Thursday 7th September and the Forum Leaders’ Retreat on Friday 8th September.

“It is always a normal thing in Solomon Islands that when a Prime Minister is away for a long time, there will always be attempts to remove him,” Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoe answered in a derisive tone.

Prime Minister Sogavare departed Apia on the night of September 6 (Wednesday) to Brisbane, Australia, where he transited before flying back to Honiara September 8 (Friday).

With his premature departure, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade represented the country in the other PIF engagements including the Leaders’ Retreat.

The Leaders’ Retreat is a closed door meeting at which the heads of states of the forum member countries endorse the summit communiqué (outcome statement).

The Solomon Star did sent an email as advised and in response Mr Akwai resent a memo he sent to the media in August.

The memo stated that, “OPMC will no longer be prepared to respond to unverified and unsubstantiated queries despite written correspondence requesting the same and in particular, to a media outlet that displays double standards, unethically manipulates information to misrepresent facts, does not attend press conferences when invited and refuses to publish statements sent by the OPMC in response to false claims and allegations.” 

The Solomon Star always strives to ensure balance and accuracy in its effort to keep the nation informed on issues of national interest and has never at any time manipulated information to misrepresent facts of any sort.

Furthermore the Solomon Star has never refused to publish any statements sent by the OPMC (Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) and has at no time received any official invitation from the OPMC to attend any press conference.

Since taking office, Mr Akwai has displayed gross unprofessionalism in the manner he deals with the media.

Instead of sending media releases to all media outlets in the country and Pacific news organisations, he only sends them to selected journalists in Solomon Islands.

Instead of sending official press conference invitations to all media outlets in the country, he inboxes and invites certain journalists on Facebook.

The last media releases, the Solomon Star officially received from Mr Akwai were about few engagements of the Prime Minister during his State Visit to Australia last month (August).

The media releases contained no dates and failed to capture all the Prime Minister’s engagements and even to encapsulate the crux of the engagements reported on.

It’s understood Akwai also accompanied Prime Minister Sogavare to the PIF summit but he never issued any media releases to the mainstream media on the participation of the Solomon Islands Government delegation, let alone the Prime Minister whom he specifically accompanied for the very purpose of informing the nation of his official engagements.

Solomon Star
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