Today's Sydney Morning Herald has more on the dispute between Australia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea that is dominating this year's Pacific Islands Forum. For those who haven't been following it, two weeks ago, the Australian government attempted to extradite Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti from Papua New Guinea to face child sex charges. He was subsequently spirited out of the country back to the Solomons, where he was promptly arrested for entering the country illegally. When an order from the Solomon Islands Immigration Minister Peter Shanel allowing entry was produced, the Australians arrested him too - for "perverting the course of justice" by initially denying its existence. In the SMH, Roger de Robillard points out just how dubious this is:
When challenged to charge Shanel or release him immediately, RAMSI charged him with having (in substance) lied to the Police Commissioner, an Australian Federal Police officer.
The allegation is not that the lie was told during a formal police interview or inquiry but at a meeting between the Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister in the Prime Minister's office. Shanel, as Immigration Minister, was present at the meeting.
Imagine a minister of government being arrested and charged under similar circumstances in Australia.
Then of course they kicked in the Prime Minister's door while trying to seize a fax machine in an effort to discover who had sent the order to PNG. Its difficult to escape the feeling this is more driven by a vendetta by Australia over Moti than a serious attempt to enforce Solomon Islands (as opposed to Australian) law.
But it gets worse. Shanel's charge - "perverting the course of justice" - depends on the immigration order existing (after all, he can hardly lie about it if it doesn't exist). Moti's charge - illegal entry - depends on it not existing. It doesn't take a genius to see that these two positions are contradictory, and that the Australians are trying to have it both ways here. But as I said, this is more about vendetta than the law.
The problem is that this arrogant and bullying attitude on the part of Australia is now undermining RAMSI's work, and calling its future into question. No-one in the Pacific Islands Forum wants to see RAMSI asked to leave - but if the Australians keep swinging their dick around like this, that might be exactly what happens.
Update: Added missing "not".