Thomas Koh Chan & Laurie Hok Si Chan

Last modified: 
3/12/2016
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Thomas Koh Chan (陳國強) and his son Laurie Hok Si Chan (陳學仕) (also a former Minister1) have been described in historical literature as "the wealthy Chan's".2 They have also supported the Solomon Islands governments of the both corrupt prime ministers Allan Kemakeza & Snyder Rini subsequently. Vote-buying support from Chinese business leaders, coordinated by Thomas Chan, was the cause of the election of Snyder Rini as Prime Minister in the 2006 general election. This election is coupled with the famous 2006 Honiara riots of that same day (cf. below for the sources and more detailed information contained in this introductory paragraph).

Thomas Koh Chan

Thomas Koh Chan (born 27 October 1957 in Auki, Malaita)3, referred to commonly as (Sir) Thomas Chan14 or (Sir) Tommy Chan,2 is an ethnic Chinese52 naturalized6 entrepreneur and politician on Solomon Islands of Roman Catholic denomination.3

Political

Thomas Chan and Moon Pin Kwan (also ethnically Chinese) were both elected as Members of Parliament (MPs) on 6 August 19977. Moon Pin Kwam became MP for Honiara and Chan became MP for West Guadalcanal, which was surprising to many observers because that part of Solomon Islands had no ethnic Chinese population. Further more, this was the first time that Chinese officially entered the countries' politics.5 His son Laurie Chan also became MP during the consecutive election, cf. Thomas Koh Chan & Laurie Chan in politics > Parliamentary functions – Comparison with Allan Kemakeza & Snyder Rini.

Independent members

  • Thomas Chan was National President of the political party Association of Independent Members (AIM), as reported in 2006.1
  • His biography (last modified on 22 April 2008) at the National Parliament of Solomon Islands noted his "political affiliation" as "Leader of Independent Group".3
  • Thomas Chan (in a 2010 source) is mentioned to be associated with the Association of Independent Members of Parliament (AIMP). The same source explains that there are also non-affiliated independent members of Parliament outside of the Association of Independent Members of Parliament (AIMP).8
Independent members of parliament are a contributing factor to political instability, in the context of the Solomon Islands: (...) more and more MPs come to office as independents, and this further contributes to the decline in the ability of established political parties to form governments. (...) Most governments since independence9 have had members of the Association of Independent Members of Parliament (AIM) and independent MPs in their ruling coalitions. High rates of independence also explain the frequency of floor crossing in parliament as independent MPs are not affiliated to political parties that could possibly restrict them from doing so.8 They have caused the collapse of governments on Solomon Islands10, and are very much intertwined with the lack of political frameworks: These independent members are attracted to and support individuals (big men) whom they see as having the potential to assert their interests and those of their constituents. They could withdraw their support when they see that another big man could promote their interests much better.10 Toswell Kaua1011, in August 2007, on a motion of sine die12, stated it this way: Mr Speaker, whilst I acknowledge that we do not have just the Government and Opposition in this honourable house, we also have a third sector in this Chamber, the Independent Group. We do not have developed political parties with permanent party politic affiliations.8

United Democratic Party (UDP)

A 2014 newspaper article noted Thomas Chan as president of the United Democratic Party. This article's English contains spelling mistakes and is too ambiguous to let me understand if it either purports that this party was formerly called the Association of Independent Members of Group (AIMG), or that Thomas Chan used to be president of the latter association (AIMG).13

On 10 November 2016 it became known that Thomas Chan, as the national president of the United Democratic Party, decided to kick the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare out of that same political party.1415

On 14 November 2016, it was communicated through a newspaper that a Cabinet Minister claimed that most Members of Parliament and ruling Ministers disagreed with Thomas Chan's decision to remove the Prime Minister from UDP.16

On 16 November 2016, it was communicated that the Attorney General of Solomon Islands, James Apaniai, reasoned that Chan's attempt to revoke the party membership of the PM was invalid, breaching multiple regulations and even the constitution of that party.17 On 24 November 2016, an unnamed official at the Office of the Prime Minister commented the following on the matter: UDP president Sir Thomas Chan was the man behind all this. It was through his push that the government had to allocate the multi-million dollar under-water cable project to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Now Sir Thomas wants the country to switch ties from Taiwan to Mainland Chinatown. But Mr Sogavare is standing in his way. To achieve his intention, Mr Sogavare must be removed. The charges they came up with against Mr Sogavare were mere cover-ups. Their real intention is to get the country to switch its ties.18 Through the media, Thomas Chan also denied allegations (allegations spread by the Prime Minister, according to Chan) regarding $40 million worth of kickbacks promised to him, in relation to the same Sydney-Honiara undersea cable optic fibre project which for which Huawei was appointed earlier in 2016.19

Enterprises

Thomas Chan is one of the most influential businessmen of Solomon Islands. Other prominent businessmen are Moon Pin Kwan and the Quan brothers who own retailing and wholesale shops in Honiara.5

By September 1998, the following businesses were owned by Thomas Chan:20
  • Honiara Hotel20 (cf. Thomas Koh Chan > Enterprises > Honiara Hotel);
  • Chan Wing20 (a major supermarket in Honiara), possibly identical to Wings Supermarket (also owned by Thomas Chan)13.
  • Tambea Tourist Resort20 (possibly identical to Tambea Village Hotel Resort: formerly referred to as Tambae Resort: the first tourist resort on Solomon Islands, 40–45 km West from Honiara, opened on August 1969 by Dalice and Olle Torling and 60 local village shareholders, who due to the government's insistence on local participation owned 8% of its shares; ran by Mr and Mrs Torling; contained 24 bungalows in 1993212223)
  • Wings Shipping20 (which used the same address as Honiara Hotel: P.O. Box 4, Honiara)24. Wings Shipping (a Honiara based shipping company, agency or both25 reportedly also ships between Honiara and Western Province26). Two vessels which certainly belonged to Thomas Chan: "MV Yandina" and "Compass Rose II",27 were thus possibly part of this company. "MV Yandina" and "Compass Rose II" were once used to carry supplies to the Choiseul and Western provinces (cf. Charity). The vessel MV Yandina was "washed ashore during rough seas" some years before 2016. Remains of the wreck lie visibly at the central market jetty. In a newspaper article of 25 March 2016, it was communicated that market vendors wanted the shipwreck remains at the market jetty cleared immediately, since it is obstructing them from berthing their boats carrying market produces.28

Honiara Hotel

Honiara Hotel is owned by Thomas Koh Chan132, is located near Chinatown, and has been owned by Thomas Chan since at least 1993, when it entailed 66 rooms.29 The hotel (which is located at P.O. Box 4, Honiara, Solomon Islands) currently describes itself as follows: Honiara Hotel has been in business in the Solomon Islands for over 43 years. The property was first established in 1960's with accommodation in the old wing (Basic Rooms), followed by refurbishment and building additional accommodation in the Ocean View wing, Paradise wing and the Luxury wing rooms. The hotel is situated in extensive lush tropical surroundings with car park facilities available near the hilltop rooms. With three international restaurants, lap size pool and a poolside Margaritas bar and lounge, guests can enjoy magnificent views over looking the sea across to Savo Island.30 It lists types of accommodation and, further more, 3 conference facilities:

Charity

Thomas Chan was Chairman of a Honiara-based fundraising committee, which on Friday 25 March 2011 at Honiara Hotel, donated a cheque of > SBD$700,000 to Frank Ingruber, the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, which was witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga. This donation was made for relief efforts following the Australian 2010–11 Queensland floods. The committee was spearheaded by Ken Kwan, Father John Lamani and Tomas Chan.4

Following the 2 April 2007 Solomon Islands earthquakes and tsunamis, EAGON Pacific Plantation Limited donated [SBD]$20,000 to the December 2004 tsunami committee headed by Thomas Chan to purchase goods for the affected Western and Choiseul provinces. Thomas shipped the supplies there using two of his boats: MV Yandina and Compass Rose II. The committee asked for donations to Honiara citizens, and therefor to contact Thomas Chan at his Honiara Hotel. Other donations to the committee included ± 500 bags of 20kg rice. When arrived, the supplies would be handed over to the National Disaster Management coordinators for distribution.27

On Friday 11 and Saturday 12 April 2014, a Flood Fundraising Event was held at "Le Flamingo club" in Honiara Hotel, for victims of the floods on the Solomon Islands following the Tropical Cyclone Ita. All entrance money and beverage sales were donated to the Flood Fundraising Appeal fund.3132

An 11 April 2014 newspaper article claims that, "in the past years" Thomas Chan’s Fundraising committee had raised funds, for the following causes, among others:
  • The Western province tsunami
  • West Guadalcanal floods
  • Asian Tsunami
  • China Earthquakes
  • Fijian floods
  • Taiwan Floods
  • Victoria Bush fires
  • Queensland floods
  • Auki Primary School fire
  • Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust funds for the Commonwealth32

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

Thomas Koh Chan is 1 of 21 Commonwealth Country Representatives for The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, 33 a charity trust which was announced in October 2011 in Perth by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and officially started in the UK on 6 February 2011.34 During 10 February – 23 February 2011, its website mentioned that a Commonwealth Advisory Group was "being established".3536 By at least 22 January 2013, its website listed already 20 Country Representatives,37 which were later mentioned as being one of the advisory bodies of the Trust, among 2 other advisory bodies. The only changes between the current list and the 22 January 2013 list has been the addition of a representative for Jamaica and a change of the representative for Seychelles.33 As of 28 November 2009, the Commonwealth counted 54 member countries,38 after which The Gambia withdrew on 1 or 3 October 2013.3940, leaving 53 members.41

Chivalry

Thomas Koh Chan received two awards noted by the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. Both of these orders by the queen of the United Kingdom, were explicitly preceded by advice by Ministers of Solomon Islands.

On 31 December 1988 Thomas Chan received the honour Ordinary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)42, which is the second lowest in rank for a total of five ranks in the chivalry of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. This rank of award does not permit the use of the title "Sir" before the recipient's name, as this admission is only granted to recipients of one of the highest two ranks. Further more, non-UK citizens who receive honorary knighthoods are not entitled to use the style "Sir" in general.434445 The reason for the award was not specific: "For services to the community".42 The following award to Thomas Chan carried a similarly vague notice, when the queen signified its arrival.

On the "New Year Honours" of 31 December 2004, on the advice of Solomon Islands Ministers, the queen of the United Kingdom, signified her intention of conferring a knighthood upon the following: Other 2004 "New Year Honours" announced, in that appendix on the Solomon Islands, were given to: Thomas Chan then received the knighthood on Wednesday 13 July 2005, conferred by the queen of the United Kingdom at Buckingham Palace.47

It seems to have been difficult to agree on, or to correctly copy the spelling of his name, as Central Chancery of Orders of Knighthood managed to write his name firstly as "Thomas Ko Chan" in the aforementioned document of 198842 and afterwards as "Thomas Kok Chan" in the aforementioned written announcement of 2004.

A source from a later date notes that Thomas Chan introduced himself, anecdotally, plainly as Tommy.48

Criticism on decorations in Solomon Islands – The case of Allan Kemakeza

To be able to better question the value of decorations such as British chivalry in Solomon Islands, it might be useful to note that e.g. also Allan Kemakeza was given a knighthood by the United Kingdom. Let us remind ourselves of the following excerpt of a multi-authored source, published by the Australian National University: Sir Allan Kemakeza was the minister [for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace, from June 2000 – 2001] who was sacked for the corrupt administration of the compensation payments and Snyder Rini was the finance minister [from July 2000 - December 2001] responsible for the corrupt administration of duty remissions.49 Professor Clive Moore summarizes some later information on him: In November 2007, Kemakeza was convicted of demanding money with menace, intimidation and larceny relating to a raid he allegedly ordered on the Honiara law firm Sol Law. He was convicted and served five months in prison in 2008, a period short enough for him to retain his knighthood.50 Yet, the United Kingdom deems it meaningful to reward that same Allan a knighthood. On 16 June 2001, the signifying therefor had been already done on the advice of Her Majesty’s Solomon Islands Ministers:
Please note however that I do not find any official statement and exact date of the actual conferring of the knighthood to Allan Kemakeza so far.

The Taiwanese even top the British, by conferring an award to this corrupt politician even later (on 20 December 2005). On 20 December 2005, he received a Special Grand Cordon of the Order of Brilliant Star, by Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian (who was sentenced, along with his wife Wu Shu-chen, to life in prison on Friday 11 September 2009 for e.g. stealing and misusing public money from 2000 to 2008; when he was ROC's president52). Below, you can find its official notice in Traditional Chinese or translated into English.

In the Bulletin of the Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan) (in Traditional Chinese: 總統府公報), more specifically No. 6666, which was published on the 28th of December in the 94th year of the ROC calendar (28 December 2005 in the Gregorian calendar), the sub-chapter on Medal Awards (in Traditional Chinese: 授予勳章) entails less than one page of information (page 78) and is followed by a chapter entitled Special report, which only entails the following line in the source's table of contents and is also less than one page (page 79) in length: 總統頒授索羅門群島總理亞朗柯瑪克札勳章典禮 Which can be translated as: The President awards a medal ceremony to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Allan Kemakeza. The sub-chapter on Medal Awards (on page 78) entails only representations of 2 medal awards:
  • One to Leila Rachid Lichi, who was Paraguay’s Minister of Foreign Affairs during 2003-200853
  • And the other one to Allan Kemakeza
Only the information about Allan Kemakeza was included in the tab here about page 78.

The source was originally in Traditional Chinese, and I organized a translation here. Some Traditional Chinese characters and specifications were omitted in the translation since including them would be unnecessary to understand the meaning of the source in English.

The source used can be downloaded from the website of the Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan).54
總統令

中華民國941220
華總二榮字第09400206171
茲授予索羅門群島總理亞朗柯瑪克札特種大綬景星勳章

陳水扁
行政院院長謝長廷
外交部部長陳唐山
Presidential Decree

20 December 2005
華總二榮字 No. 09400206171
Hereby awards the Order of Brilliant star with Special Grand Cordon to Prime minister of Solomon Islands Allan Kemakeza.

President: Chen Shui-bian
President of the Executive Yuan: Hsieh Chang-ting
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Chen Tang-shan


總統頒授索羅門群島總理亞朗柯瑪克札爵士閣下勳章典禮

總統於中華民國 94 年 12 月 21 日中午 12 時在總統府 3 樓大禮堂 頒授索羅門群島總理亞朗柯瑪克札爵士閣下(H. E. Sir. Allan Kemakeza)「特種大綬景星勳章」,以表彰其多年來致力強化台索 兩國邦誼及堅定支持我國參與國際社會等卓越貢獻柯瑪克札總理亦 呈贈陳總統「薩沃島榮譽最高大酋長頭銜」,以代表索國政府及人民 表達對陳總統在索國國家發展上所給予各項協助之由衷謝忱典禮結 束後,總統伉儷以午宴款待柯瑪克札總理伉儷及訪問團等一行
Special report

The President awards a medal ceremony to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Allan Kemakeza

On midday of the 21st of December 2005, in the big assembly hall on the 3rd floor of the Office of the President, the President awarded a "Special Grand Cordon of the Order of Brilliant Star" to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands (His Excellency Sir Allan Kemakeza), in recognition of his efforts over the years to strengthen the bilateral nation friendship between the two countries Taiwan and Solomon Islands, and also for his strong support to our country’s participation in the international community and other outstanding contributions. The Prime Minister Kemakeza also respectfully presented an "Savo Island honour of the highest tribal chief in rank" to President Chen, to express sincere gratitude from the government and people of Solomon Islands to President Chen for providing assistance in the national development of the state. After the ceremony, the President and his wife hospitably entertained the Prime Minister Kemakeza, his wife and the whole delegation with a luncheon.

Varia

In February/March 2011, his marital status was noted as married.55 His stature has been described as small.48

Laurie Chan

To be updated ...

Thomas Koh Chan & Laurie Chan in politics

The 2006 Honiara riots / Solomon Islands general election

In the context of Solomon Islands general election (2006), Thomas Chan and Laurie Chan have been called the main political players, together with Alex Wang of Iron Bottom Sound Hotel,2 a Hotel in Honiara.

In this context, the Chan's have supported the government of Allan Kemakeza (who was Prime Minister from 17 December 200156 – 18 April 200657), wherein Deputy Prime Minister was Snyder Rini who switched between 3 Minister's positions in that time;58 and subsequently the government of the newly elected Snyder Rini (who was Prime Minister from 18 April 2006 – 4 May 200657).2

When these were still but regular Ministers, they had been already described as corrupt politicians, responsible for corrupt administration: Allan Kemakeza in his position as Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace (which he manned from June 2000 – 2001)56 and Snyder Rini as Minister for Finance and Treasury (more specifically when he positioned it from July 2000 - December 2001)58: Sir Allan Kemakeza was the minister who was sacked for the corrupt administration of the compensation payments and Snyder Rini was the finance minister responsible for the corrupt administration of duty remissions.49 The main reasons of the Chan's support to these governments have been the tax breaks they received during many years, and wanting to obtain Honiara's third casino license. The construction of suitable buildings for a casino at their hotel had already started. Nevertheless, they have not been allowed a license.2

Snyder Rini was elected Prime Minister in the 2006 general election due to vote-buying support from Chinese business leaders, which was coordinated by Thomas Chan.49 About Thomas Koh Chan, it is written: In 2006, he gained influence by supporting the political coalition that successfully bid for the election of Prime Minister Snyder Rini, only to be dethroned when other business interests moved their support away from parties in the ruling coalition.8 The same source writes, about businesses orchestrating politics in Solomon Islands: Although it is well known that parties rely on financial backing from business houses that donate prizes and pay for dinners, the sources of such financial support are rarely indicated in the press.8 And about Asian business support for the election of Prime Minister Snyder Rini in 2006: Prior to that election there was a high expectation of a change in leadership and personality away from the People’s Alliance/AIM group. When this did not happen and there were allegations of Chinese business involvement in the victory of Rini, the people’s anger led to the looting and burning of Honiara’s China town.8 When the candidature of Snyder Rini (then part of the Association of Independent Members (AIM) and called leading the party in the National Parliament59) for Prime Minister was announced on 16 April, widespread street protests which targeted the Chinatown area were triggered in Honiara. Unfair favoring of Chinese businessmen by Snyder Rini and corruption was asserted by the protesters.57 After the announcement of the election of Snyder Rini as the new prime minister on 18 April by the Governor-General (Nathaniel Rahumaea Waena, 7 July 2004–200960) just after 12PM, tensions rose during 3 hours.2 Numbers rose in the hundreds at Vavaya Ridge outside the Parliament61 where, just after 3PM that day, crowds reportedly shouted: "Chinese money! Chinese money!"62 (other sources state that the rioters chanted 'Waku', which is Solomon Islands Pijin meaning Asian or Chinese,6364; in front of Parliament, reportedly because of the sight of a smiling Allan Kemakeza which accompanied Snyder Rini walking out of Parliament,6364 and while burning down Chinatown6563). Following stone throwing, tear gas was deployed as a reply by 3.22PM66, after which several Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) vehicles were set alight. When rioting and looting crowds approached Chinatown, via Mendana Avenue, they wanted to attack Thomas Chan's Honiara Hotel:2 The mob wanted to target Chan's Honiara Hotel, because of the family's involvement in politics, but was held off by the increased, mainly Malaitan security and the Christian authority of a force of Taesiu–The Anglican Melanesian Brothers, who exercised a strong mana [i.e. power in both a religious and political sense]672 Honiara Hotel and Thomas Chan's son's video shop were not harmed.2 (...) the consequences were devastating for those hotels that accomodated politicians, premises of businesses that were associated with certain political parties, and offices of those seen to be supporting such parties. The fear of such actions is sufficient for party financiers to insist on anonimity, but the lack of transparency clearly damages the relationship between party politics and democracy in Solomon Islands.8

Party representation

Party representation (number of secured seats per party) following the 5 April 2006 general elections are presented below. An increased number of independent members securing seats during elections was observed. No political party arose with a clear majority, which is considered usual for Solomon Islands.8

8
Political partyNumber of secured seats
Independent Members of Parliament13
People's Alliance Party8
Association of Independent Members7
Solomon Islands Democratic Party5
Solomons National Party5
Solomon Islands Party for Rural Advancement5
Solomon Islands Liberal Party4
Social Credity Party3
Total number of seats50

Parliamentary functions – Comparison with Allan Kemakeza & Snyder Rini

For general understanding, and since Thomas Chan and Laurie Chan have been described in literature as supporting both Allan Kemakeza and Snyder Rini, and such support has been linked to riots among the general public, below a comparing overview of their parliamentary functions will be given:
Parliamentary functions of Thomas Koh Chan, Laurie Chan, Allan Kemakeza and Snyder Rini, sorted chronologically per parliament

Legend

Date of general elections

22 Feb 198968

  • Date of first sitting: ≤ 4 Mar '8969
26 May 199370 6 Aug 199757

5 Dec 200171

  • Officially dissolved on: 20 Dec '0557

5 Apr 200657

  • Date of first sitting: 24 Apr '0672
  • Officially dissolved on: 24 Apr 20107374

4 Aug 201075

  • Date of first sitting: 8 Sep '1076
  • Date of last sitting: 5 Sep '1477
  • Officially dissolved on: 8 Sep '1478

19 Nov 201479

  • Date of first sitting: 17 Dec '1480
  • Date of last sitting: ...
  • Officially dissolved on: 17 Dec '18 if not prematurely
Politician

Thomas Koh Chan

Elected as MP for the West Guadalcanal constituency.81
?

Laurie Chan

Elected as MP for the West Guadalcanal constituency.82

Allan Kemakeza

Elected as MP for the Savo-Russels constituency.8485818256
56 56 56 56 5686 [Spe of Nat Par]86

Snyder Rini

Elected as MP for the Marovo constituency.8182588788

... before "entering Parliament"

  • Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Natural resources ('89)
  • Permanent Secretary for Ministry of National Planning and Development ('94 – '95)
  • Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Jan '97 – Jun '97)
58
Fin & Tre58 58 58 Fin & Tre899091

Footnotes

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