DMITRY KOLESNIKOV WRITES – The Solomon Islands are going through dark times as police recover three dead bodies.
On November 26, 2021, three people were found dead after a series of anti-government protests, causing Australia to send its military to help the government maintain control of the city following the request of the current prime minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare. Witnesses reported that the protest was far from peaceful, as buildings were set on fire and shops were robbed by citizens who were enraged over issues such as excessive unemployment and inability to find appropriate housing
This week’s violence was also a result of growing tension caused by fears about the Pacific nation’s strengthening ties with China. Police arrested more than one hundred individuals.
Here’s the background: In 2019, residents of Malaita, the most populous province of the South Pacific island nation, opposed Prime Minister Sogavare’s government’s decision to legally recognize China rather than Taiwan. This not only strained relations between Malaita and the Solomon Islands government, but put the island nation in the middle of a significant political crisis.
And so, on November 24, when protesters from a group named Malaita for Democracy assembled outside parliament in Honiara, the Solomon Islands’ capital, they made a request that Prime Minister Sogavare speak to them. The riots broke out right after Sogavare failed to meet their demands. Most damaged was the Chinatown region of the city by protestors from the Honiara settlements, the coastal capital of the Solomon Islands, who have been struggling to get fresh water for a while.
It didn’t help that Prime Minister Sogavare referred to outside involvement in the riots, but Taiwan denied any involvement in the current situation.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated on Thursday afternoon that his country would send over 100 police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands to “bring stability and security.” Seventy-three police officers were instructed to go to the Solomon Islands, with twenty-three coming right away, and 43 military soldiers soon following.
Who’s to blame for this sad state of things? Various political figures blame poor functioning of both administrative and social services, government corruption and the preference of big companies to hire foreigners rather than locals.
These issues must be addressed. Police and military may temporarily curtail the violence, but the underlying problems require government intervention.