Until recently, Solomon Islands had a High Commission in London, with a resident High Commissioner, so there was no need for a consul. However, financial constraints led to the High Commission being closed, and Solomon Islands being represented here by H.E. Moses K Mosé, the Ambassador to the European Union, based in Brussels.
I was invited to let my name go forward for appointment as Solomon Islands honorary consul here, and in due course this was approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and recognized by the Foreign Office here. I worked in Solomon Islands for several years in the 1980s as a magistrate, judge and public prosecutor, and have kept up connexions with the country and its people ever since. My appointment is for London, as that is how the Foreign Office wanted it; but I shall be very glad to do whatever I can for Solomon Islands citizens wherever they happen to be in this country.
I have a formal list of duties, which I am not going to set out in full here; but this is a short summary of what look like being the main ones:
- Looking after the interests of Solomon Islands citizens studying, living and working here;
- Promoting trading, cultural, scientific and tourism links;
- Helping and supporting Solomon Islands official visitors to this country;
- Representing Solomon Islands at meetings or events here when asked to do so by the High Commissioner.
With the High Commissioner, I was present at the recent 150th anniversary commemoration of the martyrdom of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, held at Exeter Cathedral. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached the sermon, and it was a very moving occasion: all the more so for me, as many years ago I had visited the very remote island of Nukapu, where Patteson was killed. Bishop Willie Pwaisiho OBE also spoke, and there was a video presentation by his daughter Kate, about the effects of climate change in the Solomon Islands, dramatically shown in pictures of the disappearance of her home island of Walande under the waves, as the years have passed.
This leads on to what might be called the burning question of the day, under consideration right now at the COP-26 conference. I have been asked by Katie Drew, of the Melanesian Mission UK, to help arrange an on-line meeting between their trustees and the Solomon Islands delegation to the conference, which I think is a good example of how I could help to promote scientific links between Solomon Islands and the United Kingdom. I shall be very happy to provide similar introductions for any other interested organizations, whenever the occasion arises.
However, I regard my main job as looking after individual Solomon Islands citizens in this country. I don’t expect many have had, or will have any problems with this country’s authorities, but I do have some experience of both immigration and criminal law here, which might help.
This is very much an introduction to me and my work, which has hardly started yet: I hope to meet many more of you over the next year, and have more to report at the end of it.