Aug 19, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Solomons stays unique

Islands Business talks to Freda Unusi, Solomons Islands Tourism Bureau’s marketing manager about the isand nation’s aspirations and tourism strategies IB: So the Solomons has the cleanest air in the world!

UNUSI: We just heard yesterday. We’re first and New Zealand is second according to the WHO.

IB: What does that mean for the Solomon islands as a desination?

UNUSI: Wow! That’s a catch phrase for us – If you want to relax and have clean, healthy air, come to the Solomons.

IB: How do you keep it that way?

UNUSI: I know! Well, for a start the logging industry is big in the Solomons so perhaps what we have to do now that they have announced that (but it’s slowly depleting. So we have no option but to revert to what we have in our lifetsyle and everything else...

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Spotlight on Honiara

Region watches as assistance mission comes to an end

AT the end of June, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands will come to an end. What started off as a military operation to quell violence and return the country to democracy after the ethnic tensions of 2000 will be no more and normality will return. Or will it?

When politically-fuelled ethnic tensions were literally fanned into flame in 2000, the Happy Isles as the Solomons are commonly known eruoted into violence and bloodshed. The Chinese community – mostly traders – bore the brunt of ferocious attacks and were evacuated by chartered flights to safety after much of China Town was torched or looted by angry mobs. Troops from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga made up the core of the military stabilisation force which responded to the plea for help to calm tensions and bring about a return to democracy.

This was the second regional stabilisation mission since the South Pacific Peacekeeping Forces was deployed to Bougainville after a truce singned in 1997 ended the civil war on the island. Pacific nations also supported a New Zealand and Australian-led monitoring mission with military capabilities in East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1999-2000. The concept of regional assistance was relied upon when the Solomon Islands sough help.

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SOLOMON Islands preparation toward hosting the 2023 Pacific Games could harmonise the deep political division between China and Taiwan. Well, that is if both countries decide to assist Solomon Islands build the needed infrastructure before the premier ‘Olympic’ type Games for the South Pacific region.

The least we expect is for the two countries to halt their assistance to Solomon Islands toward the Games and leave the host with no proper sports infrastructure constructed before the 2023 Pacific Games. The gap between the powerful People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan could be narrowed if they both agreed to assist Solomon Islands As it stands, Solomon Islands does not have proper stadiums and sports facilities to be able host the Pacific Games with less than seven years to go.

Solomon Islands has only six years to identify venues and build the main sports stadium and other sports facilities to cater for the 24 sports it will host in 2023. With 33 years of diplomatic ties with ROC of Taiwan, Solomon Islands has agreed on a deal with Taipei for the release of SBD $1.6 million to build the main stadium for the Pacific Games.

The Taiwanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr David Tawai Lee in July 2016 said Taipei will work with Honiara to ensure Solomon Islands successful hosting of the 2023 Pacific Games. Pacific neighbours Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea who have diplomatic ties to Mainland China have successfully hosted past Games due largely to financial assistance from Peoples Republic of China.

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The big push North

THE Chinese and Indian markets has been the focus of many Pacific hotels, airlines and travel companies at a tourism exchange on the Gold Coast last month. Chinese tour companies who attended the Bank South Pacific –sponsored Australian Tourism Exchange were prime targets for the Pacific because of the growing affluence of those markets. Despite a recent slowdown in China’s economy, its growing middle class with the means to travel is a potential major source market for the region.

“There was a huge number of Chinese tourism buyers at the Australian Tourism Exchange and they are looking for destinations which the Pacific can offer,” said South Pacific Tourism Organisation Acting CEO, Alisi Lutu. Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa Tuamoto, said opportunities existed for partnerships between Pacific destinations to access more of the Asian market. “China is big, very big and not all Pacific countries have the flight connections or the rooms needed to cater for such a large market,” Tuamoto said. “But working together it’s possible for various destinations to take a small number of Chinese visitors each and then move them on to the next country.”

Fiji is the only Pacific destination other than Australia or New Zealand with direct links to China. The big push North ‘ ‘ Papua New Guinea and Fiji have direct flights to Singapore and Hong Kong while PNG also has services to Indonesia and the Philippines. Tuamoto said the challenge was for Pacific airlines, tour companies and destinations to work together to develop attractive, efficient and cost effective packages for visitors.

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ANY minister of backbenchers who wish to desert Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in late 2015 would be forcefully bought back by former militants. “Or if they could not find the Minister or Backbencher, then they will go to his or her home and kidnap his wife or children,” Leader of the Independent Group and former Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua said this in a chilling revelation of what he believes was the main reason behind the controversial payment of $3million cash to former members of now disbanded Malaita Eagles Force (MEF).

Dr. Derek also alleged the use of guns being mentioned if the need arises for Sogavare to hold on to power at the helm of Solomon Islands politics. He claimed the $3million payment to former MEF members was made to keep a promise PM Sogavare made to former militants. He alleged the payment was made in return for the strengthening of his (Sogavare’s) government during the recent political instability. “I am of the view that the decision to make cash payment to some former MEF militants by the PM and the DCC Government was a knee-jerk reaction to a calculated move orchestrated by the PM himself around late October or early November last year...

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