SI “under pressure” to withdraw undersea cable contract with Huawei, China’s telco giant
AUSTRALIA is reportedly putting pressure on the Solomon Islands Government to withdraw the undersea cable Project Honiara awarded to China’s telco giant, Huawei.
The Government and the Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a few weeks ago, paving the way for work on the project to proceed. However, with Australia’s position, the project is expected to be further delayed.
Canberra cited security reasons for its action, according to officials spoken to by Island Sun yesterday.
Canberra’s opposition to the project was conveyed by the Australian government’s top spy, Nick Warner, who was in Honiara for the RAMSI farewell at the end of June.
Mr Warner reportedly informed Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare that should Honiara proceed with the multi-million dollar project, the Australian government would be forced not to issue the licence for the landing rights in Sydney.
Mr Warner reportedly made it clear that the Australian government can accept any other suppliers but Huawei.
Mr Warner (pictured) is the Director General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). He was the first Special Coordinator of RAMSI in 2003.
There are no clearer indications from Prime Minister Sogavare although officials said Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation which decides its own development partners.
However, with the gateway being Sydney, Honiara may have little choice.
One thing is certain – Australia’s position will cause further delays in getting the project off the ground and could be the beginning of a costly legal battle over contractual arrangements.
The Undersea Cable Project from Sydney to Honiara is expected to improve the capacity of Our Telekom on to handle domestic and international calls.
In a response to an email inquiry yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Robson Djokovich, said he was not aware of any official statement on the matter from either government.
“National security concerns of the Australian Government about the integrity of their NBBN is public knowledge and not a new issue to all stakeholders of the Submarine Cable Project,” Mr Djokovich who was out of town, said.