Canberra has sent police, soldiers and diplomatic staff to the Solomon Islands in an bid to quell violent demonstrations over the county’s ties with China, with protesters recently attempting to storm the national parliament.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deployment on Thursday, saying that a detachment of some 75 federal police officers, 43 troops and at least five diplomats are heading to the islands “to provide stability and security”Support local authorities in protecting important infrastructure.
Their mission is expected to last several weeks, and comes amid growing unrest and protests linked to a litany of domestic issues – perhaps chief among them a decision by the Solomon government in 2019 to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China, which considers Taiwan part of its own territory.
Morrison insists, however, that “It is not the Australian government’s intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands,”Adding that, the deployment “does not indicate any position on the internal issues”Of the country.
The islands’ prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, announced a 36-hour lockdown on Wednesday following a massive protest in the capital city of Honiara, where demonstrators demanded his resignation. Protesters attempted to storm the Parliament Building at one stage, but were later forced to leave by a group of protestors who set fire to a nearby hut.
Shops and other buildings in the city’s Chinatown district were also looted and set ablaze, despite the ongoing lockdown and curfew orders. You can see the devastation in video footage that has been making rounds on YouTube, including the destruction of buildings and their ruins amid an ocean of debris.
As Australian personnel arrived on Friday, the PM blamed the protests unspecified foreign countries, stating that demonstrators were being “fed with false and deliberate lies” about the islands’ relationship with Beijing.
“These very countries that are now influencing [the protesters] are the countries that don’t want ties with the People’s Republic of China, and they are discouraging Solomon Islands to enter into diplomatic relations,”Sogavare declined to give a specific country’s name, though he said so.
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