Violence in Solomon Islands has subsided but potential tensions have not subsided

External pressure is “very big…influence. I don’t want to name it. We will leave it there,” Sogavare said.

Honiara’s Chinatown and its downtown area are the focus of thugs, looters and protesters, who demanded the resignation of Sogavare, who has served as prime minister intermittently since 2000.

Sogavare was widely criticized by the leader of Malaita, the country’s most populous island, for his decision to abandon diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2019 and instead support mainland China. At the same time, his administration is disturbed by the millions of dollars in aid the United States has promised directly to Maleta, rather than through the central government.

Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands project of the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney, said that these problems are only decades between Marletta and Guadalcanal, where the capital Honiara is located. The latest case in the competition.

“Most of the drivers of tension have existed in the country for decades and generations, and a large part of it stems from the country’s extreme poverty, limited economic development opportunities, and inter-ethnic and inter-island competition. Between the most islands,” he said.

“So everyone is accusing, but there are some people who need to accuse the political leaders of Solomon Islands.”

The Solomon Islands is located approximately 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of Australia and has a population of approximately 700,000. Internationally, they may still be famous for the bloody battles between the United States and Japan during World War II.

A peaceful protest broke out in Honiara on Wednesday. The riots and robberies were mainly from Malaita demonstrating some dissatisfaction. The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators. They set fire to the National Assembly, police station and many other buildings.

The protesters ignored the blockade measures announced by Sogavare on Wednesday and took to the streets again on Thursday.

Critics also blamed the riots on lack of government services and accountability, corruption, and complaints that Chinese companies gave jobs to foreigners instead of locals.

Since the loyalty to Taiwan turned to China in 2019, people have been expecting Beijing to make large-scale infrastructure investments-local rumours of US$500 million-but with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after the transfer, none of this has yet to happen .

Maleta threatened to hold an independence referendum on this issue, but was overthrown by the Sogavare government.

Sogavare said on Friday that he supports the government’s decision to accept Beijing. He called this the “only problem” in the violence and “unfortunately, it was influenced and encouraged by other powers.”

“I will not bow to anyone. We are intact, the government is intact, and we will defend democracy,” he said.

However, Pleck said that in addition to widespread geopolitical concerns, the demonstrations really boil down to frustration at the lack of opportunities for most young people and the concentration of most of the country’s wealth in the capital.

“I assure you that the vast majority of people involved in the riots and robberies cannot point to China or Taiwan on the map,” he said. “They are opportunists because their economic opportunities are very limited. This is a very poor country with a high youth unemployment rate. It just shows how quickly these things are out of control in a turbulent country.”

A plane carrying Australian police and diplomats arrived in Honiara on Thursday night to help local police restore order.

As many as 50 Australian police and 43 Defence Force personnel and a naval patrol boat were scheduled to arrive on Friday.

Sogavare requested them based on a bilateral treaty with Australia. Although the existence of an independent force is small, it seems to help quell some violence.

Australia has a history of assisting the Solomon Islands and intervened after years of bloody ethnic violence called “tension” in 2003. The Australian-led international police and military called the Solomon Islands Regional Assistance Mission helped restore peace and left in 2017.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that Australian personnel are expected to be on standby “within a few weeks.”

Payne told reporters on Friday that she had no sign that other countries had provoked riots.

“We didn’t show this at all,” Payne said.

Australia did not help protect the National Assembly and the administrative building, which shows that it is not on the side of politics.

“We are already very clear. Our point is that we don’t want to see violence,” Payne said. “We very much hope to restore stability.”

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

“Chinese companies and (other) Asian companies… seem to have taken on most of the work, especially in the area of ​​resource extraction, which is of intense concern,” Kekea said.

Kekea said that in Chinatown on Friday, protesters were replaced by looters and scavengers.

“It’s been two days, two whole days of robberies, protests and riots, and Honiara is just a small city,” Kekea said. The capital has 85,000 residents.

“So I think they have nothing to plunder and destroy now,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison questioned whether Chinese citizens and companies are being targeted. He described the riots as “a bit complicated” and pointed out that Chinatown was the scene of the riots before Australia’s 2003 intervention.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian condemned the violence on Friday and emphasized Beijing’s support for the Solomon Islands government. He said that China is taking measures to safeguard the safety and rights of Chinese people and institutions in China.

“We believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister Sogavare, the Solomon government can restore order and stabilize the domestic situation as soon as possible,” he said.

The establishment of diplomatic relations with Beijing “has the sincere support of the people”, and “any attempt to disrupt the normal development of China-Sinoban relations is futile,” Zhao said.


Rising reports from Bangkok.


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