More Australian police join Solomon Islands peacekeeping mission after charred bodies found


NSW Police officers are being deployed to the Solomon Islands to support Australian peacekeepers after a request from the Australian Federal Government.

The contingent of 15 officers is expected to leave for the violence-torn capital Honiara this week.

“The operation … will provide assistance to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to support order and stability and provide humanitarian assistance to people in need,” NSW Police Minister David Elliott said.

Elliott said the officers will be deployed with all their standard police equipment, including firearms.

It is expected they will be sworn into the Australian Federal Police in the coming days before they leave for Honiara.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Federal Government was continuing to monitor events in the Solomon Islands.

“We continue to have ongoing operations in the Solomon Islands of which we are taking regular briefings,” he said.

The deployment of NSW Police comes after Solomon Islands authorities investigate three charred bodies found in a burned-out building in the Chinatown district of the city.

Police are investigating the cause of their death and their identities, and do not have further information to disclose at this point, Solomon Islands police media officer Desmond Rave said on Saturday.

Authorities imposed a curfew in the capital Honiara, after a 36-hour lockdown ordered by the embattled Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare ended on Friday.

Security forces have been unable to halt unrest in Honiara that began on Wednesday with protesters demanding the resignation of Sogavare and the looting and burning of shops and businesses.

Many of the protesters come from the most populous province of Malaita, where there is resentment toward the government and opposition to its 2019 decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal links with China.

Demonstrators are also calling for the government to limit ties with China, respect the rights of self-determination of the Malaita people, and to resume development projects in Malaita province.

More than 100 people have been arrested as of Saturday, according to police, who appealed to rioters to stop looting and burning buildings and warned of further arrests if the unrest does not stop.

To bolster local police, troops from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) arrived in Honiara on Friday, Australia’s High Commissioner to the Islands confirmed.

The Department of Defence said it had also deployed the Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Armidale to the Islands to support local forces in maritime security.

Papua New Guinea also deployed a security team to the Solomon Islands on Friday following a request from the Pacific island nation, PNG Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement.