Thursday evening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison he announced Australia will send police, ambassadors and security forces to the Solomon Islands “to provide assistance” in the event of a crisis chaos to the state capital of Honiara.
When the first shipment begins their first day in Honiara, there are mixed reports of what is happening around them. Australia’s immediate response follows a request from the Solomon Islands government.
What has been happening?
Wednesday, there was demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Manase Sogavare, who started the riots.
The riots continued, despite a 36-hour closure, in which the government ordered people not to walk on the streets. Unfortunately, it seems there has been little injury. However, property damage has been serious. Businesses in the state of Chinatown were monitored, as has been the case in the past. Civil engineering, including at least one police officer and Honiara High School were also attacked.
After two days of violence, theft, and arson, things appear to have been quiet on Friday. As Solomon Islanders walk out the door, read, evaluate the damage, and begin to look at what will happen to them, their communities, and their country.
Why has this happened?
The question of why this is happening includes a difficult mix of domestic politics and geopolitical change.
It is easy to say that this is because of the Solomon Islands “change“Loyalty from Taiwan to China by the end of 2019, as some research shows. This was really difficult in the Solomon Islands.
People have long been concerned about the dissatisfaction of the people in the densely populated Malaita region. The provincial prime minister, Daniel Suidani, has not backed down in criticizing the federal government for disrupting their 36-year-old relationship with Taipei in favor of Beijing. And he is grateful for the strong support of his community.
What is noteworthy is that the Guadalcanal regional leadership, headquartered in Honiara, also strongly opposed Sogavare.
The call for her resignation is linked to long-standing concerns about corruption, unemployment, and incomplete negotiations with her government (including diplomatic reforms in 2019). In fact, many have said that if Sogavare and his ministers had come to meet the protesters and hold talks this week, the chaos that ensued would have been avoided.
Australian history in the Solomon Islands
On Thursday, it became clear that the equipment of the Royal Solomon Islands Police came to a standstill. This prompted Sogavare to seek help from friends and neighbors. Requests were made for both Papua New Guinea and Australia.
The request and response from Canberra marks the first launch of a security agreement signed between the two countries in 2017 following the “Operation Helpem Fren” (also known as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI). RAMSI was deployed in many countries to police, military and government advisers under the auspices of Australia under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Forum between 2003 and 2017.
Morrison pointed out that the answer here is a supportive function, not an intervention – as was the case with RAMSI. Australian workers are expected to stay in the Solomon Islands for “weeks”. Their main responsibility is to assist law enforcement officials in the Solomon Islands to protect and defend the most important weapons. Under the agreement, there is an opportunity for third countries – such as PNG and Fiji – to join the mission, with the permission of the Solomon Islands government.
And then what?
What happens next is not difficult to predict.
Sogavare says he did do not quit since this would be anti-democratic and would justify collective bargaining. He also insisted on an alliance with China to make the Solomon Islands a “right side of history”. Instead it went on (without naming) meaning Taiwan and the United States are embroiled in a controversy over his country.
The people of the Solomon Islands already carry heavy loads. Their small number lack of opportunity and it comes as no surprise that the majority of those affected by this week’s crisis are politically motivated men, who look for any pleasure that might come their day.
Although the country does not have COVID, the crisis over the border has created a major economic crisis in a country that is struggling to provide for its people. For many, the events of the past few days have brought back memories of the unpleasant and painful memories of the days of “The Tensions” – racial conflicts and bloodshed that led to, ultimately, the intervention of RAMSI.
The people of the Solomon Islands are strong, intelligent, and enduring. They are blessed with some of the best and most rational people in our community who can help them know what the future holds. Australia he has a chance walk the story of “tru wantok” (Pidgin meaning “real friend”) and help them on the journey.
Author: Tess Newton Cain – Adjunct Associate Professor, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University
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