Fiji will provide 50 troops to an Australian-led peacekeeping force in the Solomon Islands after anti-government riots that razed parts of the capital Honiara, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said.
The Fijian contingent will bring the number of peacekeepers to around 200, mostly Australian soldiers and police, with a contribution of at least 34 people from Papua New Guinea.
“For the sake of the safety and well-being of our Pacific brothers and sisters in the Solomon Islands, 50 Fijian soldiers will be sent to Honiara tomorrow as part of [a] Reinforced platoon integrated with elements of the Australian forces to help maintain peace and security, ”the Fijian Prime Minister tweeted.
The Solomons crisis erupted last week with three days of deadly riots in Honiara, blamed in part on poverty, hunger and frustration at government policies in the Pacific island nation of 800,000 people.
During the riots, which left at least three dead, crowds attempted to burn down the private residence and parliament of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare before being dispersed by police who fired tear gas and warning shots .
The Fiji deployment comes as residents of Honiara continue to clean up the destroyed capital, where much of the Chinatown area has been burned down.
Meanwhile, a provincial political adviser said the Solomons’ most populous province was unhappy with Australia which sent police and soldiers at Sogavare’s request.
Celsus Talifilu, adviser to Malaita Prime Minister Daniel Suidani, said Monday: “Their presence on the ground gives a very strong moral impetus to Prime Minister Sogavare and his government. They are there at the invitation of Sogavare, how to be neutral?
“The Malaians were surprised, we are the last to defend democracy in the Solomons. We thought Australia would see the position we took.
Many of the protesters came from Malaita province, which has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province, where the national government is based, and which opposed changing the government to Sogavare in 2019 to officially recognize China instead. from Taiwan. Suidani banned Chinese companies from the province and accepted US development aid.
A curfew was imposed on Honiara on Friday after a third day of violence that saw Sogavare’s house attacked and parts of the town set on fire.
In a speech to the nation on Sunday, Sogavare condemned the attack on his home, vowing not to resign.
“This was intended to put pressure on me to resign… however, the principles of democracy and the rule of law must always be protected. I was elected Prime Minister to be a steward and protector of these fundamental principles, on which our democracy is based, and I will continue to defend it.
Sogavare said the cost of damage from the unrest was over $ 200 million.
Sogavare blamed the protests on foreign interference in his government’s decision to transfer diplomatic recognition to Beijing. Some also attributed the latest unrest to complaints about a lack of government services and accountability, corruption and foreign workers taking local jobs.