Pacific expert at the University of Hawaii, associate professor Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka made the observation following recent statements by a senior Solomon Islands politician and former prime minister, Francis Billy Hilly. Mr Hilly whose political party is contesting next month's national elections, says he'd dump Taiwan and recognise China if his group get into power. Dr Kabutaulaka says Solomon Islands politicians depend on Taiwanese funding, and switching relations to China would impact them a lot.
Presenter: Caroline Tiriman
Speaker: Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, associate professor at the University of Hawaii
DR KABUTAULAKA: If it does happen, if Solomon Islands does switch to mainland China, it will definitely have an impact on the Solomon Islands in terms of international relations, how people react from outside, but also in terms of how things operate within, because of the kinds of funds and where funds are allocated by Taiwan, where Taiwan gives a lot of money directly to politicians or to things like the Rural Constituency Development Fund. I'm glad that fund that Billy Hilly has brought up the issue and his party has brought up the issue, because I think it is an issue that needs to be openly discussed. However, I am also conscious of the fact that it will be a very difficult field in parliament to try and change relations to mainland China, rather than Taiwan, because a lot of the Taiwanese money goes to where it matters politically. It goes directly to where politicians have access to it, like the Constituency Development Fund and so to ask those same politicians who benefit from the RCDF to make a decision to switch relationships to mainland China would be a big ask and so it will be a challenge in parliament.
TIRIMAN: What do you make of some political leaders in the Solomon Islands, especially the leader of the Opposition caretaker anyway, Manasseh Sogavare, saying that if he becomes the leader of the country, one of the big things that he will focus on is decentralisation or moving some of the powers to rural areas away from Honiara?
DR KABUTAULAKA: These are not new issues. I know that Our Party has come out and has expressed it so many times in the last couple of weeks, but it is an issue that has been raised by other political parties in the country as well. However, I must say that it is not a new issue. The idea of decentralisation as well as rural development has been something that politicians have talked about since independence. One of the biggest issues of the time leading up to the independence is out of decentralisation and how political power could be devolved to different regions of the country. However, since then nothing much has been done about it and politicians always come out before elections, both this one and the previous elections talking about the need for decentralisation. I think the bigger question is how, how are they going to decentralise and given the expenses that will be involved. What I was looking for was how political parties, what political parties tell us about how they will go about decentralising. That is something that hopefully will come out in the campaigns in the next couple of weeks.