The US ambassador to the Solomon Islands has warned Pacific Islands against “aid that benefits one person, one party and one bank account” — remarks that come after the Solomons were last month beset with riots blamed in part on discontent with China.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has rejected graft allegations, and blames foreign powers that opposed his 2019 decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China for influencing anti-government protesters from Malaita Province.
Malaita opposed the 2019 switch of ties, and banned Chinese construction and companies. Last year, it accepted a US$25 million US aid program.
Malaita protesters last month sparked riots by residents of the capital, Honiara, where there is discontent over foreign companies failing to provide local jobs. Large sections of Chinatown were burnt down.
US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu Erin McKee said in a statement that the loss of life and destruction of property in Honiara was tragic and “should not have happened.”
McKee said the US aid project resulted from an exchange of letters between Sogavare and then-US vice president Mike Pence, and aid and defense officials traveled to the Solomon Islands in August 2019.
The Solomon Islands broke relations with Taiwan and recognized China the next month.
Delays to the US project occurred after the switch. It has since commenced operations, but the entry of US Peace Corps volunteers is still being negotiated.
US aid contractors worked in partnership with communities so they could build local infrastructure such as roads and maintain it “without outside help,” the statement said.
“Do you want aid that benefits one person, one party and one bank account? Or do you want assistance that empowers entire families, strengthens entire communities and enriches entire nations?” McKee said.
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