- BBC News World
Australia indicated that it will deploy more than 100 police and defense forces personnel in the Solomon Islands, where riots continue for the third day this Friday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said police and military will support “riot control” in the capital, Honaira, and offer “stability and security” to the Pacific island nation.
The violence started on Wednesday when protesters stormed Parliament in an attempt to overthrow the prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.
On Thursday, a crowd challenged the lockdown that had been imposed and set fire to government buildings, a police station and businesses.
Morrison said he had received a request for help from Prime Minister Sogavare, under a security treaty the country signed with Australia in 2017.
This bilateral security treaty enables Australian police, defense and associated civilian personnel to be rapidly deployed to the Solomon Islands in the event of an emergency.
The Taiwan-China issue
Most of the protesters are reportedly from neighboring Malaita island, which has long complained about the central government’s negligence.
A 36-hour curfew was imposed after the riots, however a crowd challenged it and on Thursday took to the streets of Honiara’s Chinatown district.
Malaita has strongly opposed Prime Minister Sogavare’s 2019 decision to change his government’s alliances with Taiwan to get closer to China.
This led to rioters targeting Chinese-owned companies in the unrest.
Sogavare’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 2019 angered many, particularly Malaita’s leaders.
Local journalist Gina Kekea told Australian network ABC that the foreign policy shift to Beijing, carried out with little public consultation, was one of several issues that led to the protests.
He indicated that there have also been complaints that foreign companies were not providing jobs a locales.
“Chinese companies and [otras] Asian companies … seem to have most of the work, especially when it comes to extracting resources, something that people take very seriously, “Kekea noted.
The prime minister now held accountable what he said was foreign interference in the protests.
But critics have blamed the unrest on what they say is a lack of government services and accountability, corruption and foreign workers taking local jobs.
On Friday it was reported that Australian police began seizing control of hotspots in Honiara.
Witnesses noted that the local police were outnumbered by the Australian police.
A resident told Reuters that they launched tear gas in Chinatown, where looting and burning of buildings continued on Friday.
The Chinese embassy expressed “serious concerns” to the Solomon Islands government.
But Sogavare has ensured that his government is still in control.
“Today I stand before you to inform everyone that our country is safe – your government is in place and continues to lead our nation,” Sogavare said, adding that those responsible “will face the full weight of the law.”
He also condemned the protesters, saying that “those involved in the latest riots had been” misled by unscrupulous people. “
Inter-island rivalries between the capital city of Honiara and Malaita are long-standing.
These divisions led to the deployment of Australian-led peacekeeping forces to the Solomon Islands from 2003 to 2017.
It is also not the first time that Honiara has faced violent unrest.
In 2006, violence erupted after the general election and much of Honiara’s Chinatown was razed, amid speculation that companies with ties to Beijing had rigged the vote.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.