Solomon Islands leader blames violent anti-government protests on foreign interference | Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavari has blamed foreign interference for his government’s decision to shift alliances from Taiwan to Beijing due to the anti-government protests, arson and looting that have swept the capital Honiara in recent days.

However, critics blamed the unrest on complaints of a lack of government services, accountability, corruption, and foreign workers taking up local jobs. In 2019, Sugavari also angered many, particularly the leaders of the most populous province of the Solomon Islands, Malita, when Cut off diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Late Thursday, a plane carrying Australian police, military and diplomats arrived in Honiara, where they will assist local police efforts to restore order after a second day of violent anti-government protests. Australia is Deployed more than 100 police and defense force personnel To support “riot control” and security in critical infrastructure.

Sogavari said on Friday he stood by his government’s decision to embrace Beijing, which he described as the “single issue” in the violence, which he “unfortunately has been influenced and encouraged by other forces”.

External pressures have had “a very big impact. I don’t want to name names. We will leave them there,” Sogavary said. “I will not kneel to anyone. We are the way we are, the government is sound and we will defend democracy.”

Fire smoke billows from buildings in Honiara on Thursday.
Protesters set buildings on fire in Honiara and looted businesses. Photo: Charlie Pereghi/AFP/Getty Images

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne did not agree that other countries had fomented the unrest. “We didn’t make it clear at all,” Payne said. “We have been very clear. Our view is that we do not want to see violence. We very much hope that stability will return.”

Local journalist Gina Kekia said a foreign policy shift to Beijing with little public consultation was one of a combination of issues that led to the protests. There have also been complaints that foreign companies are not providing local jobs.

“Chinese companies and [other] “Asian companies … seem to have the most work, especially when it comes to resource extraction, which people feel very strongly,” Kekia told Australia’s ABC.

Kikia said protesters were replaced by thieves and trash on Friday in the hard-hit Chinatown of Honiara. “It’s been two days, two whole days of looting, protesting, rioting and Honiara is just a small town,” Kikia said. “So I guess there’s not much left for them to plunder and spoil now.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday Committed forces, police and diplomats To help local police restore order and protect critical infrastructure. Australia will not help protect the national parliament and executive buildings, indicating that Australia does not take sides with any political party.

Some observers argue that Australia intervened quickly to avoid Chinese security forces moving to restore order. But Morrison said Sugavari asked for help because he trusted Australia.

“The Solomon Islands reached out to us first…as a family because they trust us and we have worked hard for that trust in the Pacific,” Morrison said. “This is our region and we stand to secure our region with our partners, friends, family and allies.”

Sugavari has requested assistance from Australia under a bilateral security treaty that has been in place since 2017, when Australian peacekeepers last left the Solomon Islands.

Australia led an international police and military force called the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands that restored peace in the country after bloody ethnic violence from 2003 until 2017.

Meanwhile, China expressed its grave concern over the recent attacks on some Chinese citizens and institutions, without providing details.

“We believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister Sugavari, the Solomon Islands government can restore social order and stability as soon as possible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.

He said that economic and other cooperation since the establishment of diplomatic relations have benefited both sides. “Any attempts to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon relations are futile,” he said.

A building next to the parliament building in Honiara was set on fire on Wednesday.
A building next to the parliament building in Honiara was set on fire on Wednesday. Photo: Courtesy of Charley Piringi/AFP/Getty Images

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said a plane carrying 23 federal police officers and several diplomats flew from Canberra to Honiara late on Thursday. Up to 50 police as well as 43 members of the Defense Forces are scheduled to arrive aboard a Navy patrol boat on Friday.

Dutton said Australian forces would also be equipped “to provide a medical response. It’s certainly a dangerous situation on the ground. We’ve seen the riots that’s happened, the arson and the general disturbance that’s there right now as well.” The police do on the ground.”

Sugavari announced the closure on Wednesday after about 1,000 people gathered in Honiara to demand his resignation over a host of internal issues.

The government said protesters stormed the National Parliament building and burned the thatched roof of an adjacent building. They also set fire to a police station and other buildings.

Sogavari ordered the capital city closed from 7pm on Wednesday to 7pm on Friday after saying he had “witnessed another sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing down a democratically elected government”.

Local media reported that many of the protesters were from Malaita, who Prime Minister Daniel Swedani has been at odds with with Sugavari, whom he accuses of being too close to Beijing.

Swedani said he was not responsible for the violence in Honiara, but told the Solomon Star News he agreed with Sogavari’s calls to resign.

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