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Solomon Islands PM blames foreign powers for unrest as protests spread

Solomon Islands PM blames foreign powers for unrest as protests spread

Smoke is seen in a still taken from video after buildings were set on fire in Honiara's Chinatown, as Solomon Islanders defied a government-imposed lockdown and protested in the capital on Nov 25, 2021. (Screengrab: Reuters/Georgina Kekea)

CANBERRA: Foreign countries are responsible for stoking unrest that has led to violent protests in the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Friday (Nov 26), as the small South Pacific island country struggles to quell the unrest.

Sogavare declared a 36-hour lockdown in the country's capital, Honiara, on Wednesday as authorities struggled to stop widespread looting and prevent protesters from burning buildings.

Many of the protesters have come from the most populous province Malaita, where many feel overlooked by the government in the wake of its opposition to the Solomon Islands' 2019 decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal links with China.

Sogavare said that the anger has been stoked by unnamed foreign countries.

"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 Solomon Islands to enter into diplomatic relations and to comply with international law and the United Nations resolution."

Sogavare declined to name the countries, as protests continued to grip the Solomon Islands.

Solomon Islands resident Transform Aqorau said that more than a hundred people were on Friday looting shops, and there was no resistance from police.

"The scenes here are really chaotic. It is like a war zone,” Aqorau told Reuters by telephone.

"There is no public transport and it is a struggle with the heat and the smoke. Buildings are still burning."

Sogavare's comments came as Australian police officers arrived in the Solomon Islands.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said that he had accepted a request from Sogavare for help, and Canberra would deploy about 100 personnel to aid the Solomon Islands' authorities in guarding critical infrastructure.

Source: Reuters/kg

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