The proposed a security agreement between Solomon Islands and China may seem to depend on security, but in fact it is counterproductive to the security interests of Solomon Islands and the Pacific. Prime Minister Manasse Sogavar seems to be ignoring the problems associated with the draft agreement, and may view it as a step that will strengthen his power over political power.
Solomon has never been threatened by outside forces, and he does not expect such threats in the foreseeable future. Her security interests are mostly internal. And in this regard there is already an agreement with China about police support. Therefore, this new deal needs to be seen in light of China’s reach in this part of the Pacific.
In the Solomon Islands, the problems of internal security and the need for foreign support are not alien. The ethnic and political crisis of the 1990s led to the intervention of a regional aid mission known as Ramsey in 2003. Three mass riots from 2006 to 2021 were driven by the political elite’s perception of corruption and the influence of Asian business interests. The political elite has long considered its own people to be in the interests of Asian businesses in granting concessions for logging, fishing, and mining, which almost always deprives the Solomon Islands indigenous people of a fair return on their resources.
The will of the people is often unrelated to the power that is formed after elections. This is because although people vote in their members of parliament, only fifty members of parliament vote for the prime minister.
As Solomon’s security challenges have emerged in recent decades, regional security partners – including Australia and New Zealand – offered a platform for cooperation and support. Solomon has a history and relationship with these regional partners. First through the Ramsey mission, and later through a security agreement that allowed the rapid deployment of Australian troops in response to the 2021 riots.
Solomon’s relationship with regional partners is not perfect. USA, Australia and New Zealand have declined to varying degrees in the region over the past decade, especially with regard to the existential threat posed by climate change. But the proposed security agreement with China is not a solution.
There are several reasons why this creates serious problems. The Solomon Fatherland, along with its traditional partners, are democracies with shared values. China has a completely different management system. The Solomon Islands are not familiar with this system.
Such differences are not only theoretical. When it comes to national security, they will influence how and what training is conducted, how arrests are made, how courts function, to what extent individual rights can be revealed, and ultimately how the rule of law is perceived.
The draft agreement will also affect the balance of regional security. In Australia, New Zealand and the United States, problems will arise if the Solomon Islands choose the location of military assets. Would the Solomon Islands want to impose this on our trusted friends and on the wider Pacific region? Is this acceptable to our friends? In addition, this path will make Solomon a geopolitical playing field and expose him to unnecessary security risks that he is unable to cope with. The risks from this will be worse than the internal risks that need to be addressed by the agreement.
The refusal of Malay Province, the most populous country, to join the government’s diplomatic transition to China in 2019 remains open early, and the prime minister himself said the transition to China contributed to the unrest in 2021. In one of his statements, the Prime Minister of the province Daniel Suidani insisted that “the hasty transition is not in the interests of our people.” A sensitive government will understand how a draft security agreement will threaten the fragile unity of the nation.
Sogavar seems to have ignored these considerations. His government seems to be trying to ignore the red lights of the nation’s internal unity, security and stability.
For the prime minister, political survival prevails over all other considerations. He seems to see China as a gin who will act as he pleases – acting in cases where Australia, New Zealand and other regional friends are restrained because of their democratic values.