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By Lucy Craymer

Opposition in majority in key Solomon Islands province after anti-China leader ousted

FILE PHOTO: National flags of Solomon Islands and China flutter at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China October 7, 2019. Picture taken October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

The opposition has taken a majority in the assembly of the most populous Solomon Islands province after Daniel Suidani, a vocal critic of the country's relationship with China, lost a no-confidence vote, an adviser to the ousted leader said on Wednesday.

Celsus Talifilu, the adviser, said in an interview if a new government is formed in Malaita province, it would back the federal government's pro-China stance.

"If the new government comes in Malaita, we suspect the first thing they would do is to come up with some kind of statement publicly that recognises China," Talifilu said.

The legality of the motion of no-confidence remains before a court, he added.

Suidani is a long-time critic of the country's deepening relations with China and vocally opposed the Solomon Island’s switching recognition from Taiwan to China in 2019.

He banned Chinese companies from the province, accepted development aid from the United States and even underwent medical treatment in Taiwan. This has brought him into conflict with the central government, whose relationship with China has grown stronger culminating in the two countries signing a security pact last year.

A government spokesperson in Honiara said that following the no-confidence vote on Tuesday, those who had voted against Suidani were now in talks to propose a new leader.

"As soon as they finalise the nomination, then the Speaker will call another meeting, which will likely be this Friday, so that voting on the new Premier will proceed," he said.

Suidani was ousted in a unanimous vote of no confidence. However, Suidani and his supporters boycotted the vote as they were waiting for the court to hear an application to delay the vote, Talifilu said. The court later dismissed the petition, but other legal action is pending.

He added Suidani's supporters had returned home after a small protest that ended in the police using teargas. A similar scuffle broke out on Tuesday.

The government official said more police had been sent to Malaita to maintain law and order during the transition of leaders.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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