Solomon Islands leader blames unrest on foreign powers

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare blamed foreign interference on his government’s decision to transfer alliances from Taiwan to Beijing over the anti-government protests, arson and looting that have ravaged the capital Honiara in recent days .

But critics also blamed the unrest on complaints about a lack of government services and accountability, corruption and foreign workers taking local jobs.

Mr Sogavare angered many in 2019, especially the leaders of Solomon Islands’ most populous province, Malaita, when he severed the country’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

A plane carrying Australian police officers and diplomats arrived in Honiara on Thursday evening, where they will help local police restore order after a second day of violent anti-government protests, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said.

Sogavare said he supported his government’s decision to embrace Beijing, which he described as the “only problem” in the violence, which was “unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other powers”.

External pressures have had a “very great … influence.” I don’t want to name names. We will stop there, ”said Mr. Sogavare.

“I’m not going to bow to anyone. We are intact, the government is intact and we will defend democracy, ”he added.

Australian Federal Police special operations members prepare to leave Canberra for Honiara (LACW Jacqueline Forrester / Australian Department of Defense / AP)

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne did not acknowledge that other countries had stoked the unrest.

“We didn’t say that at all,” Ms. Payne said.

“We have been very clear. Our point of view is that we don’t want to see violence. We very much hope for a return to stability, ”she added.

Local journalist Gina Kekea said the shift in foreign policy towards Beijing with little public consultation was one of the many issues that led to the protests. There were also complaints that foreign companies were not providing local jobs.

“Chinese and (other) Asian companies… seem to have most of the work, especially when it comes to extracting resources, which is what people care about,” Ms Kekea told Australian Broadcasting. Corporation.

Protesters were replaced by looters and scavengers on Friday in the hard-hit Chinatown of Honiara, Kekea said.

“It’s been two days, two whole days of looting, demonstrations and riots and Honiara is just a small town,” Kekea said. “So I think there isn’t much left for them to loot and waste now.” “

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday hired troops, police and diplomats to help local police restore order and protect critical infrastructure.

Australia would not help protect the national parliament and executive buildings, a sign that Australia was not taking political sides.

Some observers argue that Australia acted quickly to prevent Chinese security forces from intervening to restore order.

But Mr Morrison said Mr Sogavare asked for help because he trusted Australia.

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