The latest rioting in the Solomon Islands’ capital and its Chinatown had been incited from abroad, the country’s prime minister claimed. Australian police personnel have arrived in the country to restore order.
In an interview with Australia’s ABC news channel on Friday, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare refused to name the nations he suspected were behind the unrest, adding, however, that “We know their identities.” Sogavare insisted the only real bone of contention that led to the chaotic scenes earlier this week was the country’s closer ties with China. He dismissed as tangential all the other complaints – such as the central government’s alleged failure to provide infrastructure to the region – raised by protesters, who predominantly come from the Malaita Province.
The Solomon Islands’ prime minister said he stood by his 2019 decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China, which raised more than a few eyebrows in the Malaita Province, adding that the switch put the “Solomon Islands is on the right track in history. It also complies with international law.” He also claimed the residents of the restive region are being “Fake and intentional lies are used to get you into trouble” about the move.
At the request of Prime Minister Sogavare, 23 Australian Federal Police Officers arrived in Honiara’s capital. Another 93 Australian security personnel have also arrived in the country. Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, told ABC news on Friday that the contingent’s sole mission was to “Assist the Solomon Islands Police force in restoring law and order as quickly as possible.” with no intention to intervene in the country’s internal political affairs.
Long-standing tensions between the Solomon Islands’ central government and the Malaita Province came to a head on Wednesday when hundreds of protesters descended on the Pacific nation’s capital, encircling the parliament and demanding to be let in. The police tried to stop them entering the compound by firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd. A fire broke out in a building on the ground of Parliament, which is where members of Congress go for their lunch breaks. The mob vanished after police reinforcements reached the spot. However, looting continued in the capital with several Chinese businesses and one police station being destroyed.
The Solomon Islands was in a state of ethnic violence from 1999 to 2003. There were various militias fighting for control across the country. To end violence that had left thousands injured, killed or internally displaced, it was necessary to call in the international Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands of Australia and New Zealand.
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