Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, has been engulfed in civil unrest since Wednesday, sparking protests, looting and the burning of shops and businesses. Defying the 36-hour curfew, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware.
A spokesman for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) told CNN over the phone on Friday that fire trucks were dispatched to Sogaware’s residence as a precaution and protesters moved out of the city’s Chinatown district, where violence had previously been concentrated.
On Friday, the central government advised all public servants, except essential workers, to stay at home due to the unrest, and encouraged employees to ensure food supply “due to the uncertainty of the prevailing situation”. On Thursday, a local journalist said a fire was raging in Chinatown, and that police had lost control in eastern Honiara.
Prime Minister Sogaware refused to accede to the protesters’ demands in a public address posted to local media on Thursday, saying, “If I am removed as prime minister, it will be on the floor of parliament.”
Many protesters have come from neighboring Malaita province – home to the country’s most populous island – to express their dissatisfaction with the Sogaware government and its handling of a range of domestic issues, including promises of lack of development and unrealistic infrastructure.
Malaita province protested the Solomon central government’s 2019 decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal ties with China.
Sogaware reportedly said, “I feel sorry for my people in Malaita because they are fed up with liars and willful lies.”
“These same countries that are now affecting Malaya are the countries that do not want relations with the People’s Republic of China and they want the Solomon Islands to enter into diplomatic relations and comply with international law and UN resolutions. are discouraged.
China has said it is “seriously concerned” about the attack on Chinese citizens and businesses in Honiara on Thursday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the authorities “asked the local government to take all necessary measures to protect Chinese citizens and institutions.”
“We are confident that under the leadership of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware, the government of the Solomon Islands can soon restore social order and stability,” Zhao said.
The Solomon Islands was one of a handful of countries that had diplomatic relations with the democratic self-governing island of Taiwan, but in 2019, the archipelago swapped allegiance to China. Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of China, and denies having diplomatic relations with any country that does not recognize its “one China policy”.
Zhao stressed the One China policy is “a fundamental criterion governing international relations” and since the Solomon Islands established diplomatic relations with China, “the bilateral relations have enjoyed sound development with fruitful results.” “
“All efforts to disrupt the normal development of relations between China and the Solomon Islands are in vain,” he said.
Additional reporting from CNN’s Pauline Lockwood and Reuters.