Wednesday, 5 November 2008 12:22 AM

SI-Iran proposed relation: a view from the gallery

Dear Editor,

If Solomon Islands intention is to have diplomatic relation with Iran, then it is perfectly legal by international law. Since its States that have the 'legal personality' to enter into such, once the SI executive makes a decision to do so, it is legal. Regarding a bilateral/diplomatic relation, once it is signed by governments in office, its 'spirit and purpose' are binding on States and their constituents.

From the above understandings, it might be worth noting in the outset that in international law, it's the federal governments (central government in SI) that have the legal personality to enter into such relations. Thus, the calls recently by Malaita province and Western province (their Premiers) for the SI executive to abstain from a possible SI-Iran relation are legally immaterial at best, a misunderstanding of the Central government's role at worst (regarding diplomatic relations making responsibilities). They may just like to send to Dr. Sikua letters expressing their reservations, and not to use the media.

For future reference, both Provinces may like to know that such an executive authority is provided for in the SI Draft Federal Constitution Section 85 (2), and in Schedule Five, point 4 (a) (b) (c). They are not neat constitutional paragraphs in relation to international obligations in my opinion; however, they provide a reference for current discussions. Both Provinces may like to embrace this understanding quickly before the new system kicks in!

To support the SIG intention, however, from a legal point of view, according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in its Article 2, it stipulates that "the establishment of diplomatic relations between States, and of permanent diplomatic missions, takes place by mutual consent." To this end, therefore, if SI and Iran consented to the bilateral intention, they can always pursue its eventual realisation.

I also recognise that for some public/readers, they may argue that it's some of the Iranian recent practices, as a member of the UN community which may pose concerns, amongst other reasons. But who says that the US of A and its recent practices in Iraq or Afghanistan are by international customary law practice unquestionable? One can pick other States as examples for oneself, depending on what one would like to believe (or not to believe).

Others can also argue that 'constructions' one makes of "others" may be influenced to a large extend from what the mass media sells as "news". However, a recent Iranian incident may be of a little interest to the reader(s). It is outlined below.

In relation to the state of Israel, on 26 October 2005, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke at the 'World Without Zionism' conference in Tehran, and called for the destruction of the democratic state of Israel. Against international law (and UN Charter) such a call is legally flawed at best, absolutely regressive at worst, particularly for a leader of a UN member-state which should abide by the UN Charter. (Well, others can argue that other UN members had their share of 'UN disobedience too!).

The responses from the international community were swift and straight to anchor the legal absurdity of such a call within international law and its practice. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated: "I think we all must indeed be very sure that there is no attempt in the modern world to challenge the existence of sovereign states." (The Georgians will surely take him to task to this against their latest experiences!)

Even the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed that: "We [PLO] have recognised the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran . This is unacceptable." The Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew summed up the global understanding to the dot: "I want to vigorously condemn the remarks made by Iran's president. We are in the 21st century. Canada will never accept such hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Never."

On the basis of the above brief discussion, three observations can be made:

. The executive authority to make bilateral/diplomatic relations lies with the Central government (federal government) on behalf of its constituents. It is a legal personality right recognised in international law, and, perhaps Provincial leaders may like to start accepting it now before the new proposed system is adopted;

. While international law will always be clear on the governing of state's engagement in the enterprise of pursuing bilateral relations, SI may choose to prudently conduct its relations not just because international law allows it. Perhaps SI may like to consider making friends with those who conduct themselves in the most acceptable reading, and practice of international law; and

. Since international law allows such a proposed SI-Iran intention, it should be pursued and we will cross those bridges of "ambiguities" in how international is practiced when we come to them. In any case, we don't influence any international security decisions, and we have always stayed clear of such at the UN evidenced by some of our past "UN-non-voting" practices.

Finally, I may like to prefer the first and final bullet points (The reader can always contribute other observations). I also would like to imagine that on one hand, the above brief discussion should minimally be sufficient to present a case for a balance in how we feel about the SI-Iran proposal, and conversely should 'rest to rest' the legality of such an SIG intention.

[I will respond in another article to the "WTO/GATT" question posed to me by Danny Legumana on 3 Nov 2008]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of George Hoa'au and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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