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Opposition leaders in the Solomon Islands are challenging the authenticity of a firearm shipment from China last year following an investigative report by Al Jazeera.
Matthew Wale, the opposition leader, has called on Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau to clarify the allegations surrounding the shipment after details emerged suggesting that the guns were genuine and not “replicas” for training as previously claimed by the government.
A diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Papua New Guinea, obtained by Al Jazeera, noted, “The weapons in the photo were packed in wooden crates, appeared real, and had unique serial numbers.” Concerns grew as US officials suspected that the replica firearms shown by the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to address the controversy differed from those in the shipment. Wale voiced his concerns, stating, “When the very institutions entrusted to protect us are implicated in such deceptive acts, it becomes clear that this Government cannot be trusted, especially on matters as critical as national security.”
However, Collin Beck, the head of the Solomon Islands’ foreign ministry, refuted the Al Jazeera report, claiming it was part of a “divisive narrative” and emphasizing the untruthfulness of the allegations on X. The country’s relationship with China has been under scrutiny, especially with the Solomon Islands enhancing ties through agreements and recognizing Beijing over Taiwan. This shift has caused unease among US, Australian, and New Zealand officials due to strategic concerns in the Pacific region.
Neither Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare nor the RSIPF has publicly addressed the revelations.