After an attack on Parliament in the Solomon Islands: Australia will send troops

The Australian government announced today (Thursday) that it is sending army and police forces to the Solomon Islands in an attempt to help restore order in the capital Honiara after two days of riots demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manasa Sugbera. A demonstration by about a thousand people, most of them residents of Malalita County, the most populous island in the archipelago, against the prime minister turned into a riot yesterday as protesters tried to storm the parliament building. They burned a nearby building and a police station and police responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

Sugbra accused it of being a “sad and unfortunate event that tried to overthrow a democratically elected government” and declared a 36-hour curfew in Honiara. But the riots resumed today and heavy smoke billowed over the Chinatown district of the capital.

As a result, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the immediate dispatch of 23 police officers from the Federal Police Rapid Response Unit and another 50 police officers who will be deployed to protect vital facilities tomorrow in addition to 43 military personnel. “Our goal is to provide stability and security,” said Morrison, who estimated the deployment to last a few weeks. “We want to allow for normal constitutional processes, within the Solomon Islands, so that certain issues can be addressed. We do not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands.”

Protest in the Solomon Islands (Photo: Reuters)

The background to the harsh demonstrations is a dispute between the government and Malalita province over the relationship with China. Two years ago, Sugarba announced the severance of relations with Taiwan after 36 years and the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, when Beijing reportedly promised generous economic aid to the poor country in return.

Malalita refused to accept the change and local Prime Minister Daniel Swedny continued to maintain ties with Taiwan. Taipei provided Malalita with medical protective equipment to deal with the corona plague and Suydani also arrived for medical treatment in Taiwan last spring. “We strongly oppose China’s communist ideology and its investments,” Swedney said.

Despite the tensions, many in the Solomon Islands admitted that they were surprised by the intensity of the riots. Student Maybrick Peter Sada told ABC News from Australia that residents are “in shock” and that “angry young people are tired” and the fear is that the violence will continue for a long time. Local journalist Gina Kakia also estimated that “the worst is yet to come.”

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