Micronesia: China Shops For Politicians

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The Pacific Islands

May 14, 2006: Chinese/Taiwan politics have caused unrest and much destruction in the Solomons. Taiwan has long bribed Solomons politicians to recognize Taiwan, rather than China. This is a big deal with China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, not a sovereign nation. In the Solomons, the bribes caused disputes between local politicians over who was going to get how much of the money. China was also offering bribes, and this resulted in one group of politicians inciting riots that led to the local Chinatown getting burned down and looted.

An Australian led peacekeeping force has been in the Solomons since 2003, trying to reform the government (which is corrupt and inefficient.) However, ethnic (and this political) rivalries exist, which make politicians more loyal to their tribe than to the country of the Solomons Islands. This unstable state of affairs is not expected to change any time soon.

May 10, 2006: Australian police investigators in the Solomons have found large money transfers from overseas, to politicians active in stirring up riots against recently resigned Prime Minister Rini.

May 14, 2006: Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare appointed an ally, Charles Dausabea, as Minister of Police. Dausabea is currently in jail for inciting the riots last month, that led to Sogavare becoming Prime Minister. The courts refuse to let Dausabea out of jail just because he has been appointed to the cabinet.

May 4, 2006: The new Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare said he would deal with accusations that politicians had been accepting bribes from Taiwan, to continue recognizing Taiwan, instead of China.

May 1, 2006: Australia and New Zealand are trying to get Taiwan and China to back off from bribing Solomons politicians. The two countries are trying to buy diplomatic recognition, but the competition, by local politicians, for the bribes, is causing much unrest and rioting. Taiwan and China deny everything. However, politicians have been seem using crisp new U.S. hundred dollar bills to make purchases after key votes in parliament. The hundreds are frequently used to make bribe payments to politicians.

April 26, 2006: After two days of rioting, enough members of parliament changed their minds, Rini resigned, and a new Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, was elected. Sogavare favors recognizing China, rather than Taiwan. After the riots, about 150 Chinese went back to China. Australian, New Zealand and Fiji have about a thousand police and troops in the capital as a peacekeeping force.

April 20, 2006: Over the last few days, opposition politicians urged their supporters to riot, and destroy the shops and businesses of Chinese living in the capital. Politician Charles Dausabea was arrested for inciting the riots. Dausabea and his allies were upset that Snyder Rini was elected Prime Minister, and accused Rini of taking bribes from Taiwan, and local Chinese businessmen, to bribe enough of the 50 members of parliament to get elected.

The Solomons has 500,000 people spread over 992 islands. However, most of the population lives on a few larger islands, like Guadalcanal.

 

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