Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that police and military personnel would be dispatched to the Solomon Islands to “guarantee the stability of the country” the day after a group of protesters stormed parliament and set part of the building on fire.
“Our goal is to create stability and security in order to enable the normal constitutional process in the Solomon Islands,” he said at a press conference, emphasizing the importance of this “in a climate of peace, stability and security”.
Morrison stressed that “it is not Australia’s intention to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands”, adding that the presence of Australian forces in the archipelago “does not indicate a position in internal affairs”.
“It is a direct response to a request from the Prime Minister (Manasseh Sogavare) to assist the Solomon Islands police and ensure that they can provide stability and security so that the normal constitutional process can move forward,” he said.
Morrison also noted that the deployment is likely to be “a matter of weeks,” adding that the deployment affects just over a hundred soldiers, including more than 20 members of the Federal Police’s Special Response Group.
The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands ordered a blockade of the capital Honiara on Wednesday after the incidents and at the same time stressed that these incidents will have “consequences”.
Sogavare then made a speech to the nation confirming contacts with Australia and Papua New Guinea to stabilize the situation and expressing “regret” for the incidents before declining the possibility of resigning.
“I was elected prime minister of our beloved country by 35 members of parliament who represent his people. The demand for his resignation is based on the hunger for power of some politicians who do not respect the principles of democracy,” he argued.
He recalled that “a precedent was set in 2006 when the then Prime Minister was asked to resign after unrest in Honiara.” “If I step back, what message would be sent to our people, our children and future generations?”
“Some believe that the protests and riots will stop if I withdraw the law from his hand”.
Sogavare stressed that “this would be a very dangerous message” and added that if he is sacked as Prime Minister it must be done “in Parliament”. “I have confidence and respect in our democratic process and will defend it with my life,” he said, as the news portal Solomon Times reported.
“Our people must understand that our actions in defense of democracy are not just empty words. It is the conviction of principles and values that supports democracy and all democracies in the world,” said the Prime Minister.
With this in mind, he urged the population “to return to their homes” after “the city was ransacked and property was reduced to rubble”. “I ask everyone to respect our city, our public and private property, and the safety of innocent civilians,” he said.
“Destruction, looting and violence are not the way to address differences that need to be resolved through dialogue and consultation,” he said before calling on ministers and parliamentarians to “defend democracy”.
Sogavare has also accused “politicians with their own agenda” of “deceiving” the population. “I don’t blame those who demonstrate and take part in riots. They are citizens of our country who, unfortunately, have been exploited by certain politicians and individuals for their selfish and limited ends, ”he said.
The incidents came after a group of protesters forcibly stormed the Parliament building after police prevented them from entering the building, causing a fire to break out on the premises.
People who came from Malaita Island, one of the islands in the archipelago, took part in the protest. Parliamentarians integrated into the government of this island had urged the population not to join the mobilizations and accused the opposition of inciting violence.
The protests stem from the demands of the people of Malaita for further development of the region and the differences between the central government and the island authorities over the need to maintain relations with China, which Sogavare defends.