Solomon Islands: Dead bodies found after days of unrest | News | DW

Solomon Islands: Dead bodies found after days of unrest | News | DW

The charred remains of three bodies were found in a burnt-out building following days of rioting in the capital of the Solomon Islands, Australian media reported on Saturday. The violence began to subside on Friday.

Forensic teams were investigating the scene — a store in the Chinatown district where many buildings had been looted and ransacked.

The government had earlier imposed a curfew — over 100 people were arrested for rioting and looting, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force said on Saturday.

Solomon Islands chief Minister Manasseh Sogavare on Friday blamed unnamed foreign countries for stoking violent protests in the capital, Honiara, over the past three days.

Foreign interference, he said, was in response to his government’s decision to switch recognition from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.

Critics have said there are other factors involved, including pandemic-fueled economic frustrations, without of government sets and accountability, corruption and Chinese businesses giving jobs to foreigners instead of locals.

Inter-island tensions

At the heart of the tensions is a long-running rivalry between residents of the country’s most populous island, Malaita, and the central government based on the island of Guadalcanal.

The chief minister insisted that his government’s decision to embrace Beijing was the “only issue” in the violence which was “unfortunately influenced and promoted by other powers.”

“I feel sorry for my people in Malaita because they are fed with false and deliberate lies about the switch,” Sogavare told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“These very countries that are now influencing Malaita are the countries that don’t want ties with the People’s Republic of China, and they are discouraging the Solomon Islands to go into into diplomatic relations and to comply with international law and the United Nations resolution.”

The country has seen three days of protests, arson and looting

Night curfew reimposed

The small Pacific island nation has seen three days of protests, arson and looting, mostly in Honiara’s Chinatown and downtown district.

Sogavare announced a 36-hour lockdown on Wednesday after about 1,000 people stormed the parliament, demanding his resignation. But demonstrators swarmed the streets of the capital in defiance halfway into the lockdown.

A night curfew was reimposed indefinitely on Friday after Australian police began taking control of the capital’s hot spots.

The government requested help from Australia under a bilateral security treaty that has existed since 2017.

Nearby Papua New Guinea also sent 50 police officers. “We are aiming to help restore calm and allow normal constitutional processes to function,” the Papuan and Australian foreign ministers said in a joint statement on Saturday.

Australian police take control

Australian chief Minister Scott Morrison has committed troops, police, and diplomats to help local police restore order and protect basic infrastructure.

“The Solomon Islands reached out to us first … as family because they trust us and we’ve worked hard for that trust in the Pacific,” Morrison said.

“That is our vicinity and we’re standing up to obtain our vicinity with our partners, our friends, our family, and allies,” he additional.

Australia has sent peacekeepers to the area to quell riots

Notably, Australia would not assist in the protection of the National Parliament and the executive buildings, in a sign that it was not taking political sides.

Morrison questioned whether Chinese businesses were being targeted, calling the unrest “a bit of a mixed story.”

ab, adi/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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