/ 26 November 2021

Australian troops and police deported to the Solomons

Image source: AAP
Image source: AAP

THE SQUIZ
At least 20 Federal Police officers are on their way to the Solomon Islands as the security situation worsens. Another 50 officers and 43 troops from Army units in Townsville will be sent today as the Pacific Island nation grapples with days of rioting and violence. PM Scott Morrison received a request for help from Solomon Islands’ PM Manasseh Sogavare, and the deployment is expected to last “a matter of weeks”. The AFP will help local forces with riot control. Prime Minister Morrison says Australia’s presence will seek to “calm tensions” in the country.

WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?
Sogavare is being called on to resign by protesters and the opposition because of a deal he struck with China in 2019. Beijing promised US$500 million in financial aid to the Solomons, which is one of the Pacific’s poorest countries. But it meant that Taiwan – with whom the Solomons had been working with for 30 years – was out of the picture. A group of senior politicians published an open letter criticising Sogavare, warning that establishing ties with Beijing could see the rule of law compromised. They also pointed to other Pacific nations that are locked in a debt trap because they’ve “given in to China’s lures”. Fast forward to this week, and the unrest kicked off on Wednesday when large crowds gathered outside the parliament demanding Sogavare go. The protest turned violent, and a leaf hut in the Parliament complex was destroyed by fire. Rioters looted buildings and torched a police station, a school and many shops in the Chinatown area of the capital.

COULD THESE PROTESTS HAVE BEEN PREDICTED?
Well, maybe, but the violence still came as a shock. There has been a history of tension in the country, and in 2003, then PM Sir Allan Kemakeza asked Australia for help to keep the peace when ethnic violence broke out. The ADF joined the regional mission and served there for a decade until 2013, along with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. Speaking about the deployment of Aussies last night, PM Scott Morrison said “we have always been there to help our Pacific family when they have needed us. And this is such a time.

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