Update – Three dead as unrest continues – 27 November 2021
The bodies of three people killed in Solomon Islands unrest have been discovered in a burnt-out building in the capital Honiara, police said Saturday, the first reported deaths after days of rioting.
The charred bodies were discovered in a store in the Chinatown district of Honiara, with a security guard telling AFP he found the bodies in two burnt-out rooms late Friday.
© Agence France-Presse
26 November 2021
Solomon Islands has reached out to Australia for security intervention to help local police control the burning of buildings in Honiara’s Chinatown on Thursday amid protests against the government.
The Australian government planned to initially send 23 federal police to the Solomon Islands, but may deploy 50 more AFP officers and additional defence personnel should riots escalate further.
The security role will include controlling the safety of critical infrastructure with the Royal Solomon Islands police on the ground while an Australian patrol boat will also support local law enforcement.
Prime minister Manasseh Sogavare had announced a 36-hour lockdown on Thursday after protesters in Malaita province earlier called for his resignation over being left out of the national government’s decision-making process, which has included breaking ties with Taiwan in favour of recognising China.
“It is a sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing down a democratically-elected government down,” Mr Sogavare said in a national address of the protesters.
The premier of the most populous Solomon Islands province, Daniel Suidani, has constantly rejected calls from Mr Sogavare to fall into line with what is in the best interest of the country.
That call comes after Mr Suidani had terminated business licences of ethnic Chinese in Malaita over claims he was bribed to dismiss all forms of diplomacy with Taiwan, an accusation that Mr Sogavare has flatly denied.
The riots on Thursday that eyewitnesses have described as violent included setting fire to parts of the Solomon Islands parliament.
Members of the parliament from Malaita put out a statement two days earlier over planned protests in Honiara, asking for Mr Suidani to “recall our people, our brothers and sons from carrying out such a potentially dangerous and violent actions”.
Hundreds of government dissidents ignored pleas and still gathered in front of Honiara’s parliament shouting for Mr Sogavare to quit before smoke billowing from a nearby grass hut went up in flames.
Mr Sogavare in response said that “hundreds of citizens took the law into their hands today” before adding that the majority of fair protesters were “led astray by a few unscrupulous people”.
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Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth’s police force while on sovereign land did not indicate that his government was taking a position on internal political matters.
“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security to enable the normal constitutional processes in the Solomon Islands to deal with the various issues that have arisen and for that to be done in an environment of peace and security,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.