In the Solomon Islands’ capital, anti-government rioters set fire to buildings.


In the Solomon Islands’ capital, anti-government rioters set fire to buildings.

In a second day of anti-government protests, rioters set fire to buildings in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. They targeted the city’s Chinatown quarter.

Crowds overcame a government lockdown to take to the streets, according to eyewitnesses and local media.

Several buildings were engulfed in flames, with plumes of thick black smoke billowing high above the capital, according to live footage.

On Wednesday, activists attempted to assault parliament and overthrow Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, causing major chaos in Honiara.

The embassy of China in Honiara expressed “severe concerns” to the Solomons’ government after businesses run by Honiara’s Chinese minority were stolen and burnt.

In a statement, the embassy claimed it “expressed representations for the Solomon Islands to take all necessary measures to strengthen the protection of Chinese firms and people.”

Sogavare claimed that his government remained in charge.

“Today, I stand before you to assure you that our country is safe — your government is in place and continues to lead our country,” Sogavare said, adding that those responsible “shall face the full force of the law.”

The rioters returned the next day after failing to break into parliament on Wednesday, running amok in Chinatown and ransacking a police station, according to a local resident.

Police had created barricades, according to the man, who did not want to be identified. However, the unrest showed no signs of abating.

As local media reported looting and police employing tear gas, a homeowner stated, “There are mobs swarming around, it’s really tense.”

The majority of the demonstrators in Honiara are said to be from Malaita, a neighboring island where residents have long complained of government neglect.

The local government on the island also spoke out against the Solomon Islands’ decision to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019, a move orchestrated by Sogavare, who critics claim is too close to Beijing.

Matthew Wale, the head of the opposition, called on the prime minister to resign, claiming that the violence was caused by discontent over unpopular policies taken during his tenure.

“Unfortunately, people’s frustrations and pent-up resentment toward the prime minister are overflowing unrestrained onto the streets, where opportunists have exploited the already critical and deteriorating situation,” Wale said in a statement.

Similar inter-island rivalry prompted the deployment of an Australian-led peacekeeping force in the Solomon Islands from 2003 to 2017, and Canberra and Wellington will keep a careful eye on the situation.

The Solomons’ government had not sought New Zealand for assistance, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. Officials from Australia did. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.


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