To disperse large numbers of protestors demanding the resignation from Prime Minister Manasseh Sogare, police in Solomon Islands used rubber bullets and tear gas.
The protest was connected to a continuing issue between the Malaita provincial government and the national government. Malaita has refused to recognize China.
Around 1000 people gathered at parliament’s gates, where MPs are currently sitting. Schools were also closed early to ensure safety.
Gina Kekea, a local journalist, told ABC that the protests surprised most Honiara residents.
Stone was used to build the buildings, and the traditional leaf hut located next to Parliament House caught fire.
Kekea stated, “It was the tea gas that set the fire,”
She said that one female officer sustained injuries while protesters were taken into custody.
Juanita Matanga was a spokesperson for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. She stated that “a lot” of people had damaged buildings in Honiara including a police station.
She said, “It’s really sad to see this behavior.”
“We can solve these problems regardless of our differences.”
Gina Kekea stated that it was possible that “the worst is yet” and that other Honiara residents would join the protests.
China diplomatic ties lead to political conflict
According to The Solomon Islands Herald, protesters then looted and damaged shops at Honiara’s Chinatown and marched to China embassy.
After the Solomon Islands moved its diplomatic ties to mainland China, Beijing opened an Embassy in Honiara in September 2020.
Daniel Suidani (premier of Malaita) has voiced concern about the cutting off of diplomatic ties to Taiwan.
Yesterday, Malaita’s national government MPs called on Mr Suidani to remind their supporters to refrain from violence.
“Exercise you duty and moral obligation, leaders, to unconditionally and uncategorically recall our peoples, our brothers and our sons from engaging in such a potentially dangerous or violent actions,” the MPs stated in a statement.
“We appeal to the Malaitans to respect our status as Malaitans and Solomon Islanders.
“Please stay in your homes and villages, and do not allow political opportunists to use your genuine frustrations and incite violence for their ends.”
Kekea claimed that she spoke with Mr Suidani about the protests, and that he said the protests were the result of “the government not listening to the people”.
She stated that the frustration began with the September 2019 switch in diplomatic allegiances from Taiwan to China.
Kekea stated that there have been many events along the way. It’s a mixture of them all that has led to this point.
According to the ABC, the Australian government has indicated that it is ready to respond to any request for assistance from Solomon Islands.
According to the Australian High Commission Honiara, “The situation in Honiara is changing with civil unrest.”
“Please be careful and stay where it is safe for you to do so, and avoid crowds.”