China-sceptic leader of Solomon Islands largest province removed

Daniel Suidani, a vocal critic of China and leader of the Solomon Islands’s largest province, has been removed from office after a no-confidence vote in the provincial legislature, according to Australia’s public broadcaster ABC.

Legislators brought the vote after accusing Suidani, premier of Malaita province in the Pacific Islands nation, of misappropriating funds, according to ABC.

His supporters gathered in small numbers in the provincial capital Auki around the time of the vote, where they were met by riot police.

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ABC said Suidani, who was not at the provincial assembly, lost the vote after 17 members voted against him.

Suidani has long criticised the decision of Prime Manasseh Sogavare to switch diplomatic allegiance to China from Taiwan in 2019.

He refused investment in his province and held numerous public events to celebrate the arrival of Taiwanese aid consignments in Malaita during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the assistance had not been approved by Sogavare’s government.

Suidani’s continued support for Taipei brought him into direct conflict with the Solomon Islands’s One China policy and led to an increasingly acrimonious and public spat between him and Sogavare.

In 2021, anger over the treatment of Malaita by the central government and the Solomon Islands’s approach to Beijing helped drive unrest in Honiara, which is on the neighbouring island of Guadalcanal.

The decision to switch diplomatic ties to China fuelled animosity between Daniel Suidani, who led the province of Malaita, and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

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Rioters targeted buildings and businesses in the capital’s Chinatown district,t and at least three people were killed before calm was restored with the help of Australian police.

Last April, it emerged that Sogavare had signed a security pact with China, raising the alarm in Australia and elsewhere.

The has been stepping up its engagement in the Pacific amid China’s growing influence.

Last month, the US reopened its embassy in Honiara.

It had closed down the mission in 1993.

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