The streets of Solomon Islands are calm again but there are warnings of worse troubles ahead if the underlying issues that provoked the recent rioting in Honiara aren’t addressed.
Solomon Islands’ security forces, backed by a contingent of Australian police officers and soldiers, and with the support of security personnel from Papua New Guinea, were on alert in the capital Honiara, as parliament convened for the first time since protests broke out, when MPs were last sitting.
Anti-government protesters and looters torched and looted buildings across the city for three days with early estimates putting the cost of fixing damage to infrastructure at around AUD$40 million (US$28 million).
“It is very clear that the recent events were will planned and orchestrated to remove me…for unsubstantiated reasons that have been distorted to misrepresent the facts,” Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manessah Sogavare said in a national address.
“I want to assure the nation that the government is fully intact, and nothing will move us. We must and will never bow down to the evil intention of a few people. We must stand up to intimidation, bullying, and violence”.
Fiji has announced it will send 50 troops to its Pacific neighbour Solomon Islands, adding to around 150 police and defence personnel from Australia and Papua New Guinea.
“I also wish to take this moment to convey my thoughts and prayers to our brothers and sisters in Solomon Islands for the turmoil they are currently experiencing,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Minister for the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said it is “far too early to speculate” about any longer term support that Australia might provide to Solomon Islands now that calm has been restored.
The Australian Government has stated it expects to provide security support for several weeks.
“We anticipate at this point, that it will be a relatively short term intervention, but of course, we’ll be monitoring the situation on the ground,” Minister Seselja told Pacific Beat.
“It’s only at the request of the Solomon Islands government,” he said.
“In terms of the length of the duration and any any future role, it’s far too early to speculate at this stage. What we’ve said is we’re coming in to restore calm and restore order, we believe it will be a relatively short term deployment.”
“But anything beyond that is, is a matter for further discussions and further consideration,” he said.