- The Guardian
- Issue #2017
Includes languages spoken. Image: NordNordWest, Stefano Coretta – commons.wikimedia.org (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Australian high commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Lachlan Strahan, was forced to deny that Australia is building a military base in Temotu Province in the Solomon Islands. As reported in The Solomon Star in late June, local people reported a shipload of soldiers arriving in Temotu. They said that there were about sixty soldiers in uniform, along with people from different parts of the Solomon Islands. One said, “This is a small township and the soldiers are everywhere. There is no panic but some of us are wondering why they are here as we have not heard anything from the government about the military base being built at Vanikoro” (a town in Temotu).
In reply to the report, Strahan was forced to state that these activities have “nothing to do with the Australia Military base.”
So what is going on? According to Strahan, there are “five Australian Defence Force engineers, three government officials, one Royal Solomon Islands Police Force official, one official from the Ministry of Police and Justice and an official from Immigration.” This number is much less than what the locals are seeing on the ground.
Strahan went on to say that this is part of a long-term agreement to build a “multi-agency centre” for health, customs, police, and immigration to “look after the borders.” This will be known as an “Eastern Border Outpost.”
The local people in Temotu Province are not convinced. Apart from suspecting that a military base is indeed being planned, they also suggest it may be a cover for mining. A local shop owner pointed out: “Some are saying the group is here to assess bauxite deposits in the province. They may be using building the military base to avoid stirring up opposition against mining.” Obviously, the history of Australian ventures in the Pacific has left behind a significant amount of suspicion in SI. Past efforts at mining have extracted valuable minerals and made profits for the Australian company but no lasting benefit for the locals. Indeed, all that has been left behind is land polluted with toxic chemicals.
Why all the secrecy? Will it be a “multi-function centre,” a mine, or a military base? Perhaps this is what “multi-function centre” really means.