CANBERRA (Australia) — Violence has receded in the Solomon Islands capital on Friday, but the government did not show any signs of addressing the underlying grievances which sparked two days worth of riots. This included concerns about China’s growing links to the country.
Manasseh Sogavare, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, tried to divert attention from domestic problems by blaming external interference for stirring up protesters. He made a subtle reference to Taiwan and America.
External pressures had a “very large… influence.” I won’t name names. Sogavare stated, “We’ll leave it there.”
Chinatown in Honiara and its downtown precinct became the focal point of looters, rioters and protesters demanding Sogavare’s resignation, who has been Prime Minister intermittently since 2000.
Leaders of Malaita, the nation’s largest island, have criticized Sogavare for his 2019 decision to abandon diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead favor mainland China. His government has also been upset by millions of dollars in U.S. aid that was promised directly to Malaita and not through the central government.
These issues are the latest in decades-old rivalry between Malaita, Guadalcanal and Honiara.
He stated that most of the causes of tension are in the country for decades and have been there for generations.
“So everybody’s pointing fingers but some fingers need to also be pointed at the political leaders in the Solomon Islands.”
With a population of approximately 700,000 people, the Solomon Islands are located around 1,500 km (1,100 miles) northeastern of Australia. They are most well-known internationally for the bloody fighting between Japan and the United States that occurred there during World War II.
On Wednesday, looting and riots broke out in Honiara after a peaceful demonstration. The protest was mainly made up of Malaita residents who were protesting a variety of grievances. The demonstrators set fire to the National Parliament and other buildings, and police used rubber bullets and tear gas against them.
Protesters defied the lockdown by Sogavare on Wednesday and took to the streets on Thursday.
Critics also blamed unrest on government inefficiency and corruption, as well as Chinese businesses giving jobs to foreigners rather than locals.
There was a expectation that Beijing would invest massively in infrastructure in China after the 2019 shift of allegiance from Taiwan towards China. However, this was only rumored locally to be around $500 million. Then again, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted shortly after the shift.
Malaita had threatened to hold a referendum over the issue. But that was stopped by Sogavare’s government.
Sogavare stated Friday that he supported his government’s decision not to embrace Beijing. He described Beijing as the “only problem” in the violence and said it was unfortunate that other powers had encouraged it.
“I won’t bow to anyone. He said that we are still intact, that the government is still in place and that we will continue to defend democracy.
Pryke stated that the protests were more than just geopolitical concerns. He said they were mainly motivated by frustration at the lack of opportunities for a large young population and the concentration much of the country’s wealth in the capital.
He said that “I can guarantee you that the vast majority” of those involved in the looting and rioting couldn’t locate Taiwan or China on a map. They were there because they had limited economic opportunities. It is a poor country with high youth unemployment. This just goes to show how quickly things can spiral out-of-control in volatile countries.
Andrew Yang, a Taiwanese professor and former deputy defense secretary, stated that China’s attempts to gain diplomatic recognition from Solomon Islands government is part of a regional competition for dominance.
He said, “I believe it’s part the power competition between United States & China because China is also extending its influence in the Pacific region and also using this opportunity to undermine the U.S. so-called Indo-Pacific Security Strategy.” “So, the U.S. Indo-Pacific security umbrella includes islands in the South Pacific.”
Farhan Haq, Farhan’s deputy spokesperson, said that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres had been “following the protests with concern.”
“Guterres” calls for an end of violence and protection of hard-won peacebuilding achievements. Haq stated that he urges dialogue and peaceful ways to resolve differences in a Friday statement.
Late Thursday, a plane with diplomats and police from Australia arrived in Honiara. It was there to assist the local police in restoring order.
On Friday, up to 50 additional Australian police officers and 43 personnel from defense forces with a navy patrolboat were expected to arrive.
Sogavare requested them under a bilateral agreement with Australia. The presence of an independent force seemed to have helped reduce some violence.
Australia has a long history of supporting the Solomon Islands. It intervened after years of ethnic violence, known as “the tensions”, in 2003. The peace was restored by the Australian-led International Police and Military Force called the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. They left in 2017.
According to Marise Payne, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, the Australian personnel will be available for “a matterof weeks.”
Payne stated to reporters Friday that she didn’t know if other countries were causing unrest.
Payne stated, “We haven’t indicated that at any time.”
Australia is not supporting the protection of the National Parliament or the executive buildings. This indicates that it does not take sides in politics.
“We have been very clear. Payne stated that we do not want violence. “We hope for stability to return.”
Gina Kekea, a local journalist, said that the protests were triggered by a combination of issues. She stated that the Chinese foreign policy shift to Beijing without much public consultation was just one example of the many issues. Also, there were complaints about foreign companies not offering local jobs.
Kekea stated that Chinese businesses and other Asian businesses seem to have the most work, especially when it is about extracting resources. This is something people are passionate about.”
Kekea stated that protesters were replaced Friday by looters, scavengers and others in Chinatown.
Kekea stated that it had been two days, two full days of looting, protesting and rioting in Honiara. The capital is home to 85,000 people.
She stated, “So I believe that there’s not much left for them now to loot or spoil.”
Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, questioned whether Chinese citizens or businesses were being targeted. He called the unrest “a mixed story” and pointed out that Chinatown was where rioting took place before Australia intervened in 2003.
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned Friday’s violence and reiterated Beijing’s support for Solomon Islands government. He stated that China was taking steps to protect the rights and safety of Chinese citizens and institutions.
He stated that he believed the Solomon government could restore order and stabilize the internal affairs as soon as possible under Prime Minister Sogavare’s leadership.
Zhao stated that Beijing’s establishment of diplomatic relations has won the sincere support of its people and that any attempt to undermine the normal development China-Solomon relations is futile.