Australian police take control of Solomon Islands’ capital

“These countries, which are now affecting Malaita, are the countries that do not want ties to the People’s Republic of China, and they discourage Solomon Islands from entering into diplomatic relations and complying with international law and the UN resolution.”

Sir. Sogavare said he stood by his government’s decision to embrace Beijing, which he described as the “only problem” in the violence, which “was unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other powers”.

Australian federal police board a RAAF C-130 Hercules in Canberra on Friday. Alex Ellinghausen

Australian Foreign Secretary Marise Payne did not agree that other countries had started the unrest.

“We have not stated that at all,” Payne said.

“We have been very clear. Our view is that we do not want to see violence. We very much hope for a return to stability.”

Local journalist Gina Kekea said the foreign policy shift to Beijing with little public consultation was one of a mix of issues that led to the protests. There were also complaints that foreign companies did not provide local jobs.

“Chinese companies and [other] Asian companies … seem to have most of the work, especially when it comes to extracting resources that people feel strongly about, “Ms. Kekea said.

China and Taiwan have been rivals in the South Pacific for decades, with some island nations shifting allegiance.

China regards Taiwan as an idiosyncratic province with no right to state-to-state ties, which the Taipei government strongly denies. Only 15 countries maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The last two to drop Taipei in favor of Beijing were the Solomon Islands and Kiribati in September 2019.

Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said in a statement: “We have nothing to do with the unrest.”

‘The scenes here are chaotic’

Solomon Island resident Transform Aqorau said more than 100 people looted shops on Friday before Australian federal police arrived.

“The scenes here are really chaotic. It’s like a war zone,” Mr Aqorau said by telephone Friday morning.

“There is no public transport and it is a battle with the heat and the smoke. Buildings are still burning. ”

He later said Australian police “took control of Chinatown”.

A statement on the Solomon Islands Government website said that civil servants with the exception of essential workers should stay home “because of the current unrest in Honiara City”.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said a plane carrying 23 federal police and several diplomats flew to Honiara late Thursday. Up to 50 more police officers as well as 43 defense forces with a Navy patrol boat were scheduled to arrive on Friday.

Australian police were previously deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2003 during a peacekeeping mission approved by a Pacific Island Forum statement and stayed for a decade.

Severe internal unrest and armed conflict from 1998 to 2003 involved militant groups from Guadalcanal and the neighboring island of Malaita and fighting on the outskirts of Honiara.

– with AP


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