Sat, Oct 28, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Sogavare backs down in row over Solomon Islands inquiry

AFP , HONIARA

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has backed down in a row over an inquiry into riots that destroyed much of Honiara's Chinatown.

The inquiry has been at the center of a row between the Solomons and Australia.

Two parts of the inquiry, which are called terms of reference, said it should look into the roles of MPs Charles Dausabea and Nelson Nee, both Sogavare supporters, who are charged with inciting the riots.

Solomon Islands Cabinet papers leaked last month indicated Sogavare set up the inquiry with the expectation that court proceedings against the MPs would then be suspended.

Sogavare would not say yesterday why he dropped the terms of reference, but said he had briefed Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Fiji this week during the Pacific Forum.

"We have removed the two terms of reference and yet he is still concerned about the commission of inquiry," Sogavare said.

"The commission of inquiry will go ahead as we have the appointed commissioners," he said.

In relation to the setting up of the inquiry, newspapers last month quoted Sogavare as saying "there is a lot of sense in this approach."

According to the papers, the commission was designed to halt "the investigation conducted by the police on the cases of our two detained colleagues and subject them to a proper, holistic and independent investigation."

The riots erupted following the election of Snyder Rini as prime minister in April this year.

Rini was accused of accepting money from ethnic Chinese businessmen and from Taiwan to bribe fellow members of parliament for support in the election.

In the wake of the riots, Rini resigned and was replaced by Sogavare, who initially made Dausabea his police minister before reversing the appointment amid protests.

When the riots erupted, Australia and New Zealand sent in reinforcements of more than 200 soldiers to restore order.

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