SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — The pro-China Solomon Islands government has reportedly “disqualified” a former provincial leader because of his defiant refusal to recognise Beijing over Taipei.
The sanction against Daniel Suidani — a local assembly member and ex-premier of the largest island Malaita — comes at a time of growing Chinese influence in the Solomons and the wider Pacific, viewed with concern by the United States and its allies in the region.
Suidani — already ousted as provincial premier in a no-confidence vote in February — has consistently refused to toe the line set by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who switched the island nation’s diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 2019.
A letter informing Suidani last month of his disqualification from the Malaita assembly cited his “ongoing failure to recognise the One China Policy which is a key policy of the National Government”, said a government statement published by local media on Wednesday.
Suidani’s seat in the Malaita assembly should be declared vacant, it said.
The former Malaita leader plans to challenge the decision in the High Court, according to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.
“We are disappointed because the decision really does not look like a legitimate decision,” Dickson Pola, a supporter of Suidani in the Malaita assembly, told AFP.
Pola claimed overwhelming support among people in Malaita for maintaining ties with Taiwan rather than China.
China claims the self-governing island of Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken one day and, under its “One-China” principle, no country may maintain official ties with both Beijing and Taipei.
They have been engaged for years in a diplomatic tug-of-war in developing countries, with economic support and other aid often used as bargaining chips for diplomatic recognition.
Sogavare’s switch paved the way for unlocking huge amounts of Chinese investment but it was far from unanimously popular, particularly on Malaita where residents had benefited from Taiwanese aid projects and maintained deep links to Taipei.
Solomon Islands’ strengthening ties with China have also led to hand-wringing in the United States and among allies including Australia and New Zealand.
Western concern over China’s sway in the Solomons deepened when the two countries signed a secret security pact in 2022.
Both China and the Solomon Islands denied the pact would lead to the establishment of a permanent Chinese naval base, but the details of the agreement have never been revealed.