Solomon Islands protests: Violent protests continue for third day amid tensions with Malaita province

Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, has been hit by civil unrest since Wednesday, with protests, looting and the burning of shops and businesses. Despite a 36-hour curfew, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

A spokesman for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) told CNN by phone Friday that fire trucks had been sent to Sogavare’s residence as a precaution and that protesters had moved out of the city’s Chinatown district, where the violence had previously been concentrated.

On Friday, the central government advised all officials to stay at home amid the unrest, with the exception of essential workers, and encouraged staff to secure food supplies “due to the uncertainty of the current situation”. On Thursday, a local reporter said fires were raging in Chinatown and police had lost control of eastern Honiara.

Prime Minister Sogavare has refused to give in to protesters’ demands, saying in a public speech to local media on Thursday: “If I am removed as prime minister, it will be on the floor of parliament.”

Many of the protesters have come from neighboring Malaita province — home to the country’s most populous island — to express their dismay at Sogavare’s government and its handling of a range of domestic problems, including lack of development and unrealized infrastructure promises.

“The events illustrate the sense of exclusion of many from development in Honiara and Guadalcanal that has resulted from the retail, mining, logging and increasingly construction sectors being dominated by companies and workers from Asia,” said Anouk Ride, a researcher on aid, development, conflict and social inclusion, writing on the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter website.
Prime Minister Sogavare, however, blamed unnamed foreign powers for fueling the unrest, according to an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Cooperation.

Malaita Province opposed the decision of the Solomons central government in 2019 to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and enter into a formal relationship with China.

“I feel sorry for my people in Malaita as they are being fed false and deliberate lies about the switchover,” Sogavare reportedly said.

“These countries that Malaita are now influencing are the countries that do not want ties to the People’s Republic of China and they are discouraging the Solomon Islands from establishing diplomatic relations and complying with international law and United Nations resolution.

Smoke rises from burnt-out buildings in Honiara's Chinatown on Nov. 26.

China has said it is “seriously concerned” about what it said were attacks on Chinese citizens and businesses in Honiara on Thursday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said authorities have “asked the local government to take all necessary measures to protect the security of Chinese citizens and institutions”.

“We are confident that the government of the Solomon Islands under Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare can soon restore social order and stability,” Zhao said.

This Pacific Province Is So Frustrated With China's Presence It's Pushing For Independence

The Solomon Islands were one of the few countries to have diplomatic relations with the democratic self-governed island of Taiwan, but in 2019 the archipelago exchanged its allegiances for China. Beijing considers Taiwan part of China and refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with a country that does not recognize its ‘one China policy’.

Zhao stressed that the One China policy is “a basic standard of international relations” and since the Solomon Islands established diplomatic ties with China, “bilateral relations have developed well with fruitful results.”

“All attempts to disrupt the normal development of relations between China and the Solomon Islands are futile,” he said.

Additional coverage from CNN’s Pauline Lockwood and Reuters.


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