Australia deploys troops to quell Solomon Island’s riots
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Rioters torched buildings and looted the smouldering rubble of shops in the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara Friday — a third straight day of political violence as Australian peacekeeping troops rushed to secure critical infrastructure.
Thousands of people — some brandishing axes and knives — rampaged through the city’s Chinatown, Point Cruz and business districts — according to a reporter on the scene.
In Chinatown, a large warehouse was set alight, causing an explosion that sent scores of people fleeing from the scene in panic.
There were also reports of a tabacco warehouse being set alight as smoke from previous days fires cast parts of the devastated city of 80,000 people in an acrid haze. The small Pacific Island nation has been rocked by days of violent anti-government demonstrations. The first of Australia’s snap peacekeeping deployment arrived overnight, within hours of Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare appealing to neighbours for urgent help quelling the unrest that threatened to topple his government. On Friday, Papua New Guinea sent a detachment of 34 peacekeepers to help staunch the violence.
Sogavare said the Solomons had been “brought to its knees” by the rioting but vowed to resist calls for his resignation.
The Solomons Prime Minister claimed foreign powers opposed to his 2019 decision to switch the Solomons’ diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China were behind the disturbances.
The archipelago nation of around 700,000 people has for decades been beset by ethnic and political tensions. The latest bout of unrest began Wednesday when thousands of protesters besieged parliament, setting fire to an outbuilding and seeking to oust Sogavare. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed “grave concern” and called on the Solomon Islands Government “to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of Chinese citizens and organisations”.
– THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS