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Australia sends troops to help unrest in Solomon Islands

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that 23 Australian federal police officers would be dispatched immediately and 43 Australian defense forces would go on Friday.

A Royal Australian Air Force plane left Thursday night with AFP members and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Morrison later confirmed.

Thick smoke is pouring down on properties in the Solomon Islands as crowds fill the streets.
Thick smoke is pouring down on properties in the Solomon Islands as crowds fill the streets. (Included)

On Friday, about 40 ADF personnel from the Army’s 3rd Brigade, 6th Brigade and 17th Brigade will leave Townsville for Honiara, and another ADF aircraft will leave Canberra with additional DFAT officials and AFP members.

A naval vessel was also to be deployed to the Solomon Islands to “support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force with maritime security”.

“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security,” Mr Morrison said, adding that Australia would not intervene in the internal problems of its Pacific neighbor.

Protesters from the country’s most populous island, Malaita, had traveled to the capital in a spill over from anger over a wide range of domestic issues, including unrealized infrastructure promises, media reported.

They demanded the departure of Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Sir. Sogavare asked Australia for assistance under a bilateral security treaty agreed in 2017.

Australia will also send a patrol boat to the area. Morrison said the Royal Solomon Islands police force has been stretched.

He said he has received reports of more unrest, an increasing number of people on the streets. He noted that all Australian High Commissioners have been taken into account.

Morrison also stressed that Australia’s troop deployment to the Solomon Islands is to support local law enforcement.

“We are there to support them and what they are doing and to provide that backup, especially in relation to the critical infrastructure that is there,” he said.

People appear to be fleeing down an alley as unrest builds in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara.
People appear to be fleeing down an alley as unrest builds in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara. (Included)

“And it has been important for us to be fully aware of our Pacific island nations, especially with the Prime Minister about the nature of our involvement.”

Secretary of State Marise Payne says the federal government will oversee travel advice for Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, after civil unrest triggered an overnight blockade and curfew.

“We will continue to review these travel advice as the hours and time go by to ensure it is appropriate and we will support Australians who may be in the capital,” Payne said.

“I can also advise the Australian Mission in Honiara, all staff and families are safe and they support the government in providing information on events as they unfold.”

Wild flames tear through a property while people, potentially protesters, linger nearby.
Wild flames tear through a property while people, potentially protesters, linger nearby. (Included)

The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) said between 2,000 and 3,000 protesters took to the streets Thursday as some set fire to buildings and looted shops in eastern Honiara. Thirty-six people have been arrested, they added.

Protests erupted Wednesday night as parliament resumed over the prime minister’s failure to respond to a civilian petition filed in August demanding the government respect the Malaita people’s rights to self-determination, restrict relations with China and resume development projects in Malaita.

Politiet havde tidligere brugt tåregas for at bryde protesterne.

When Mr Sogavare called for the closure of an address sent out late Wednesday, Mr Sogavare said: “Our nation was witnessing another sad and unfortunate event aimed at bringing down a democratically elected government.”

Protesters gather outside the parliament building in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on November 24, 2021, in this screenshot taken by Reuters from a video on social media (CNN).
Protesters gather outside the parliament building in Honiara. (Georgina Kekea via REUTERS)

“I had honestly thought we had passed the darkest days in our country’s history, but today’s events are a painful reminder that we have a long way to go,” Mr Sogavare said.

A blockade in Honiara, which will last until kl. 7 a.m. Friday local time, “will allow our law enforcement agencies to fully investigate the perpetrators behind today’s events and prevent further lawless destruction,” he said.

In addition to looting shops, protesters set fire to a thatched roof building on Parliament’s grounds – while sitting – and a police station, Sogavare said.

The RSIPF urged people attending schools and businesses around Honiara to stay home to avoid being hit by unrest.

Australian troops are being sent to the Solomon Islands following riots in the capital Honiara.
Australian troops are being sent to the Solomon Islands following riots in the capital Honiara. (Getty Images / iStockphoto)

“We want to ensure that our streets, schools and businesses reopen soon after the closure,” RSIPF Deputy Commissioner Juanita Matanga said in a statement.

“I ask for your cooperation until the situation becomes normal.”

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