Buildings on fire, thousands of demonstrators invading the Chinese quarter of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands… Nothing seems to stop the protest, Thursday, November 25, in the Pacific archipelago despite the curfew imposed following the riots from yesterday.
Hundreds of people demonstrated on Wednesday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manassah Sogavare, before heading to Honiara’s Chinatown, where they burned down a police station and looted businesses until police intervened. with tear gas. Following these incidents, Mr. Sogavare ordered an immediate curfew in Honiara, deploring a « Sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing down a democratically elected government ».
The Solomon Islands government faces pressure after a decision in 2019 to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal ties with China, pushing the neighboring island of Malaita – one of the nine provinces that form the Solomon Islands – to consider a referendum for its independence.
Protesters from the neighboring island of Malaita
Demonstrators from Malaita are said to have taken part in the violence affecting the capital, to protest against this decision. The Solomons had chosen to recognize Taiwan in 1983, and many residents of Malaita had close ties with Taipei. The government of this island has regularly criticized Honiara for having approached Beijing in this way.
This Pacific archipelago, independent of Great Britain since 1978, had sunk into inter-ethnic violence in the early 2000s. New tensions had led to the deployment between 2003 and 2013 of a peace force led by Australia.
Riots notably broke out in Honiara’s Chinatown during the 2006 legislative elections, following rumors that companies close to Beijing had rigged the vote.
Opposition leader Matthew Wale urged Sogavare to resign, assuring that the unrest would not end with a police-framed curfew. « Unfortunately, the frustrations and the anger that the people have returned against the Prime Minister are spreading uncontrollably in the streets, where opportunists are taking advantage of the situation », he said in a statement.