Thursday evening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia will deploy police, diplomats and defense force personnel to the Solomon Islands “to provide assistance” after a serious incident. unrest in the capital Honiara.
As the first distribution begins their first day in Honiara, there are mixed reports of what’s going on around them. Australia’s quick response follows a request from the Solomon Islands government.
What’s going on?
had on wednesday protests against the government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, which has turned into an uprising.
These riots continued despite a sudden 36-hour curfew imposed by the government to keep people off the streets. Fortunately, there seem to be minimal injuries. However, the property damage is enormous. As has happened several times before, businesses in the Chinatown area have been targeted. Public infrastructure was also attacked, including at least one police station and Honiara High School.
After two days of rioting, looting and arson, things look a little calmer on Friday. As the Solomon Islanders emerge from quarantine, they assess the situation, assess the damage, and begin to focus on what happens next for themselves, their communities and their country.
Why did this happen?
The question of why this happens involves a complex mix of domestic politics and geopolitical shifts.
It’s simple to say it’s because of the Solomon Islands.”switched“Dependencies from Taiwan to China in late 2019 as some analysis suggests. This was certainly a critical juncture for the Solomon Islands. But we need to take a broader and deeper perspective to understand what’s going on right now.
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Much focus has been placed on the discontent of the people in the densely populated state of Malaita. State premier Daniel Suidani did not back down in his criticism of the central government’s decision to scrap its 36-year relationship with Taipei in favor of Beijing. And it has strong support from its community.
Less noticeable is the fact that the provincial leadership of Guadalcanal, where the capital Honiara is located, is also highly critical of Sogavare.
The calls for his resignation relate to long-standing concerns about corruption, lack of service delivery, and inadequate consultation by his government (including the diplomatic transition in 2019). Indeed, many said that Sogavare and his ministers went out this week to meet and dialogue with the protesters, and the ensuing disorder could have been avoided.
History of Australia in the Solomon Islands
On Thursday, it was revealed that the resources of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force were stretched to breaking point. This prompted Sogavare to seek help from friends and neighbors. Requested by both Papua New Guinea and Australia.
The request and response from Canberra marks the first activation of the security agreement signed between the two countries in 2017. RAMSI was a multi-country distribution of police, military and government advisors led by Australia between 2003 and 2017 under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Morrison made it clear that this current intervention is a relief mission and not an intervention as in RAMSI. Australian personnel are expected to be in the Solomon Islands for a period of “weeks”. Their primary responsibilities are to assist law enforcement in the Solomon Islands in securing and protecting critical infrastructure. Under the terms of the agreement, there is scope for third countries such as PNG and Fiji to participate in a mission with permission from the government of the Solomon Islands.
It is not easy to predict what will happen next.
Sogavare says he will don’t resign because this will be anti-democratic and the acceptance of the mafia administration. He also insists that alignment with China puts the Solomon Islands “on the right side of history.” In fact, it went even further (no name) imply Taiwan and the USA are fueling disagreements in their country.
The people of the Solomon Islands are already carrying a heavy load. Young populations deprived of opportunities and it’s not surprising to learn that many of those involved in this week’s disorder were young children with no meaningful political agenda in mind, seeking the excitement of a particular day.
While the country is free of COVID, the effects of the expanded border closures have had significant economic impacts on a country struggling to provide basic services to its population. For many, the events of the past few days have brought back unhappy and traumatic memories of the “Tensions” days – the inter-ethnic conflicts and bloodshed that eventually led to the RAMSI intervention.
The people of the Solomon Islands are strong, resourceful and resilient. They are blessed with some of our region’s most outspoken and strategic thinkers who can help them navigate what the future will bring. Australia there is an opportunity Conducting the “tru wantok” (Pidgin meaning “true friend”) talk and supporting them on this journey.
Author: Tess Newton Cain – Assistant Professor, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University