Solomon Islands violence recedes, but there is no underlying tension.

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Canberra – Violence in the Solomon Islands capital receded on Friday, but the government showed no signs of addressing the underlying dissatisfaction that caused the two-day riot, including concerns over growing relations with China.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavale sought to distract attention from domestic affairs by blaming external interference that upset protesters in a thinly obscured reference to Taiwan and the United States.

External pressure was “very big … an effect. I don’t want to give it a name. I’ll leave it as it is,” Sogavale said.

The precincts of Honiara’s Chinatown and its downtown were the focus of riots, predators and protesters who demanded the resignation of Sogavale, who has been the prime minister intermittently since 2000.

Sogavale has been widely criticized by the leaders of Malaita, the country’s most populous island, for the 2019 decision to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of mainland China. Meanwhile, his government is upset by the millions of US aid promised directly to Malaita, not through the central government.

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Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think tank, said these issues are the latest in decades of competition between Malaita and Guadalcanal, where the capital Honiara is located. rice field.

“Most of the driving force of tension has been in the country for decades and generations, much of it from the country’s severe poverty, limited economic development opportunities, and ethnic and island competition. Between the two most populous islands. ”

“That is, everyone is pointing, but there are also fingers that need to be pointed at the political leaders of the Solomon Islands.”

The Solomon Islands, with a population of approximately 700,000, are located approximately 1,500 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of Australia. Internationally, they are probably best known for the bloody battles that took place between Japan and the United States during World War II.

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Riots and looting broke out on Wednesday from peaceful protests in Honiara. Mostly the people of Malaita have expressed a lot of dissatisfaction. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators, who fired at the Capitol, police stations, and many other buildings.

Protesters went back to the streets on Thursday in opposition to the blockade declared by Sogavale on Wednesday.

Critics also blamed anxiety for lack of government services and accountability, corruption, and complaints that Chinese companies are giving jobs to foreigners rather than locals.

Since the shift of loyalty from Taiwan to China in 2019, large-scale infrastructure investment from Beijing is expected, and it is rumored to be in the range of $ 500 million locally, but the COVID-19 pandemic immediately after the shift It hasn’t happened yet due to the outbreak of.

Maraita threatened to hold a referendum on this issue, which was shattered by the Sogavale government.

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Mr Sogavale said on Friday that he supported the government’s decision to accept Beijing, which described it as the “only problem” of violence “unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other forces.”

“I’m not going to give in to anyone. We’re unharmed, the government is unharmed, and we’re going to defend democracy,” he said.

But beyond widespread geopolitical concerns, the demonstrators said they were largely summarized by the lack of opportunities for the young population and the frustration that much of the country’s wealth was concentrated in the capital. ..

“I guarantee that the vast majority of people involved in riots and looting couldn’t point out China or Taiwan on the map,” he said. “They were there as opportunists because their economic opportunities were very limited. It is a very poor country with a high youth unemployment rate, which is how unstable these things are. It indicates if it can quickly get out of control. “

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A plane carrying Australian police and diplomats arrived in Honiara late Thursday, helping local police restore order.

On Friday, an additional 43 defense personnel with up to 50 Australian police and naval patrol boats were scheduled to arrive.

They were requested by Sogavale under a bilateral treaty with Australia, and the presence of independent troops seemed to help quell some of the violence, albeit small.

Australia has a history of supporting the Solomon Islands by intervening years after the bloody ethnic violence known as “tension” in 2003. Australia-led international police and troops, called a regional support mission to the Solomon Islands, helped restore peace in 2017.

Australian officials are expected to be on hand for “weeks”, according to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Payne told reporters Friday that there were no signs that other nations had aroused anxiety.

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“We don’t show that at all,” Pain said.

Australia does not support the protection of parliamentary and administrative buildings as a sign that it has not taken a political dimension.

“We were very clear. Our view is that we don’t want to see violence,” Payne said.

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

“Chinese and (other) Asian companies … seem to do most of the work, especially when it comes to extracting resources that people feel strongly about,” Kecare said.

Protesters were replaced by looters and scavengers on Friday in Chinatown, according to Kekea.

“Two days of looting, protests and riots, two full days have passed. Honiara is just a small city,” Kekea said. The capital has 85,000 inhabitants.

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“So I don’t think they have much left to plunder and ruin now,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison questioned whether Chinese citizens and businesses were targeted. He described the anxiety as a “slightly complicated story” and said Chinatown was a scene of a riot before Australia intervened in 2003.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, condemned the violence on Friday and emphasized Beijing’s support for the Solomon Islands government. He said China is taking steps to protect the security and rights of Chinese and institutions in the country.

“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sogavale, we believe that the Government of Solomon can restore order and stabilize the internal situation as soon as possible,” he said.

Zhao said the establishment of diplomatic relations with Beijing “has earned the sincere support of the people” and “attempts to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon’s relations are futile.”

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Report of rise from Bangkok.

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Solomon Islands violence recedes, but there is no underlying tension

Source link Solomon Islands violence recedes, but there is no underlying tension

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