Friday, 3 June 2011 8:37 AM

Focus on Those Displaced by Climate Change: Sikua

Opposition Leader, Dr Derek Sikua, says Pacific leaders should place top priority on Pacific climate change refugees and not people from overseas.

Dr Sikua was responding to the ongoing debate for an asylum processing centre.

"Well this is an issue for the region, including Australia, and those are the things we should be talking about rather than talking about refugees that come from outside of the region and trying to cater for them," Mr Sikua said.

"I believe the urgent priority for the region now is to look at issues relating to relocating people affected by climate change or climate change refugees."

Earlier, the Premier of Western Province in Solomon Islands, George Lilo Solingi, said local communities were not consulted over an offer to process asylum seekers in his province on behalf of Australia.

His comments came after Prime Minister Danny Philip approached the Gillard government offering to host an asylum-seeker centre on Stirling Island after a similar pitch to East Timor collapsed.

Mr Solingi said any plan must have the support of local people.

"We should ask ourselves whether the people of Mono in Solomon Islands have been consulted. In fact they are the ones that have the direct impact, although they are part of Western Province, the day-to-day impact would be on them," he said.

"There are some benefits. The economic benefits as well as the national security benefits."

Former deputy Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Fred Fono, says Australia must stop trying to off-load its detention centre problems onto fragile Pacific states.

Mr Fono says the offer by Solomons Prime Minister Danny Philip was ill-conceived and likely to trigger land disputes.

He says the Solomons had enough problems of its own without taking on a controversial asylum-seeker processing role.

Australia is also in talks with Malaysia about a refugee-swap plan, which would see 800 asylum-seekers sent there for processing in exchange for up to 4000 refugees, mostly Burmese.

Letters to the Editor All Letters
By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province