The Solomon Islands Public Service Commission yesterday suspended the nation's newly appointed attorney general after it confirmed he was wanted on an Australian judicial arrest warrant on alleged child sex abuse offenses.
The decision by commission Chairman Edmund Andresen, reported by Solomon Islands Broadcasting, puts the organization overseeing the country's civil service clearly at odds with Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare, who is standing by his appointee as senior law officer and accuses Australia of a politically motivated witch hunt.
At the center of the storm is Julian Moti, an Australian citizen who was arrested on Sept. 29 at Australia's request in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, as he returned from Singapore to the Solomons to take up the attorney-general's post.
Moti jumped bail and took refuge in the Solomons' diplomatic mission in Port Moresby, claiming diplomatic immunity.
The diplomatic row widened yesterday, as Papua New Guinea's leader supported Sogavare and indicated it may not hand over the wanted man despite a court order in Papua New Guinea seeking his arrest for failing to appear.
Australia wants to try Moti, an Australian citizen, for having sex with an underage girl in Vanuatu in 1997. Sogavare says charges against Moti for the assault were dismissed in Vanuatu, and Canberra is pursuing him as part of an agenda against his government. Under Australian anti-pedophile laws, citizens can be tried for crimes committed overseas.
Andresen said the commission decided yesterday to suspend Moti without pay after getting information about the Australian arrest warrant.