Solomon Islands rejects Australian asylum seeker request | Pacific Beat

Solomon Islands rejects Australian asylum seeker request

Solomon Islands rejects Australian asylum seeker request

Updated 6 August 2013, 17:02 AEST

Solomon Islands has declined to take part in Australia's asylum seeker resettlement program.

The message which was conveyed through diplomatic channels has been declined by Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.

Solomon Islands will not be joining Papua New Guinea and Nauru as part of Kevin Rudds asylum resettlement plans.

Geraldine Coutts caught up with Mr Lilo at Sdyney airport on his way home from the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Fiji.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker:Gordon Darcy Lilo Solomon Islands prime minister

LILO: Well there was an informal proposition that was made to the Solomon Islands government, but then we said to them that the choice that the asylum seekers that are currently flooding the region wanted to go to Australia. And given the current situation that Solomon Islands is going through, it is a very risky situation for us to just consider the proposal as it is right now. So we have said no to them.
COUTTS: Who was it that asked you?
LILO: Well there was a message that was sent to us, it was just done informally and we knew that we were going to be approached. It was done through the diplomatic processes, but it was a very informal one.
COUTTS: Alright and was that on behalf of the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?
LILO: The Prime Minister sent the message but it was done informally.
COUTTS: Can you give me more of the detail of what the informal message was?
LILO: Well it's basically whether or not Solomon Islands is prepared to be part of the Pacific Solution and we basically said that no, it's a proposal that we cannot consider at this point in time because a., we've just come out of a situation that we have gone through and it's quite risky for our country to just accept a proposal like this. And secondly we have to respect the choice of asylum seekers who have made their choices to where they want to go to.
COUTTS: And was there any more detail? For instance additional aid offered and money of any terms and what the terms were that this informal message might have conveyed to you should you say yes and agree to become part of the policy?
LILO: No we hadn't gone through that extent, it's basically exploratory whether or not Solomon Islands would think seriously about the Pacific Solution proposition. And we said no, it cannot be at this point in time.
COUTTS: And so there was no other detail, it's just no and wasn't even we'll think about it and get back to you, it's just no and don't approach us again?
LILO: Well development within the region, I mean Australia is part of the Pacific region, bigger matters that have to be dealt with through the appropriate forum. And the appropriate forum to deal with this is basically the Pacific Islands Forum. So anything to do, at this level to be a Pacific Solution then it has to go through the same process of participation, and that is the Pacific Forum Leaders have to be part of the solution, it cannot be a solution that can be dealt with just one or two countries and we'll call it a Pacific Solution. If this issue in future would become an issue that the Pacific Island countries will have to consider, then it must be done in that context.
COUTTS: And do you think that Papua New Guinea and Nauru should have also put it to the Forum before they accepted Australia's deal?
LILO: Well it's not something for me to comment on that because that is sort of their probity of the governments of those two countries, their respective governments. But as far as I'm concerned in future if asylum seekers are going to flood the Pacific, then these are issues that will have to be discussed by the Pacific Island Forum, that's what I'm saying.
COUTTS: Now the matter you referred to was the ethnic crisis of the Solomon Islands where land issues was part of it. It would be an issue if the Solomon Islands was to accept asylum seekers because it's a sensitive subject and on whose land would the asylum seekers be resettling is the issue for you isn't it?
LILO: Well these are issues that we have to consider. You cannot consider matters like this that has a wider implication, and as you quite rightly pointed out, that is one aspect. But I think fundamentally what we need to also understand is that the choices that these people have made is that they wanted to come to Australia, that's their choice. And their rights are well protected under the UN convention on asylum seekers, where they want to go it is the probity of that country to consider what to do with them. It cannot be pushed to other countries.
COUTTS: Prime Minister if we can move on to another subject now if you don't mind, and you're on your way home now to Solomon Islands from attending the Pacific Island Development Forum in the west in Fiji. Why is it that you decided to accept that invitation and go? What's in it for Solomon Islands?
LILO: Well sustainable development is of great concern to Solomon Islands and we have been part of international conferences, for instance the Rio Plus 20 talks about sustainable development and sustainable development goals. We have under the Small Island Developing States,a program of action and  strategy to encourage small island states to adopt good principles of establishing a proper plan to advance green growth agenda, ensure that we protect the natural environment, marine resources, renewable energy technologies, dictate proper waste disposal management systems and so forth.
COUTTS: It's been suggested or do you think that the Pacific Islands Forum in its current stand is outmoded and old-fashioned and does need to be updated, and that this Pacific Island Development Forum might replace it?
LILO: Not at all I think that's a very wrong comparison. I mean the Pacific Island Development Forum is a discussion forum, it's addressing development issues, facing  the countries and it's all geared up towards sharing ideas approaches, experiences as to how countries can adopt green growth to help sustain the natural environment, but encourage more economic and social development to their people. The Pacific Island Forum this is a forum, this is a forum where the leaders themselves have their own agenda to deal with and there are rules and processes and procedures that govern the way that leaders meet and decide on issues.
COUTTS: And so you think that the forum should remain as a leaders forum, because it's been suggested and the invitations have been extended to the development forum, that NGOs take part and that the media can take a much greater role?
LILO: Yeah, I mean that's the whole purpose of this Pacific Islands Development Forum. It's not only just for the leaders, I mean we are engaging private sector, we're engaging the civil society NGOs who are part of the whole process of ensuring a sustainable development to happen in the island countries. But the Pacific Island Leaders Forum is just for the leaders, and it's confined to the leaders. So this forum is a very open one, it's a transparent one and one that covers all stakeholders in the society to be part of the solution in finding what's the best approach in individual countries, individual communities to advance sustainable development agenda.

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