The Solomon Islands government has terminated a strategic cooperation agreement signed by the Central Province government and China’s Sam Enterprise Group. Attorney-General John Muria says it was “unlawful, unenforceable and must be terminated with immediate effect.”
The five-year lease deal alarmed residents on Tulagi and officials in the SI government and caused concern in Wellington, Washington and Canberra. China’s Sam has not commented. Company executives met SI Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare when he visited China this month, shortly after diplomatic relations opened between the two countries.
The agreement contained references to trade and minerals, including a possible oil and gas development as part of a “special economic zone”. However, its broad wording could have enabled China Sam to build strategic assets such as deep sea ports.
Muria said the agreement signed had significant legal “defects“, including an illegal clause which would exempt China Sam from having to obtain Foreign Investor status under Solomon Islands laws.
The deal was also not vetted by the attorney-general’s chambers, as required of all provincial and national level agreements, he said.
A reader reminds us Tulagi harbour is the resting place of an RNZN corvette HMNZS Moa which sank in April 1943 after being struck by Japanese dive bombers while refuelling from a US Navy tanker. Five ratings were killed.