Australia will send over 100 personnel from the Federal Police and Defence Force to Solomon Islands amidst civil and political unrest in the nation’s capital, Honiara. The deployment comes after over 1,000 residents united to protest outside of Honiara’s Parliament throughout the week.
Growing unrest in Solomon Islands has developed further today, with Australia now stepping in. It began with peaceful protests and demonstrations by the people of the Malaita Province.
The Malaita Province’s government notably disagreed with the nation’s central government’s decision to switch allegiances from Taiwan to China in 2019. Since then, a divide between the people of the Malaita Province and the central government has grown.
The protests evolved as people called for the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Things took a troubling turn as protesters allegedly took to burning down buildings and looting shops, resulting in Solomon Islands seeking support from Australia.
The nation’s prime minister said those responsible for violence and destruction of property throughout the protests would “face the full brunt of the law”.
“Today I stand before you to inform you all that our country is safe – your government is in place and continues to lead our nation,” said Mr Sogavare.
The federal government has been steadfast in developing stronger ties with Pacific nations through is Pacific Step-Up foreign policy strategy. Announced in 2016, Australia committed to being the Pacific’s “largest development assistance partner”.
The program is said to be a means of countering the growing presence of influence of China over Pacific nations.
“Australia’s response is under the treaty that we have with the Solomon Islands and that is with the people of the Solomon Islands—that is between two governments, and it is there regardless of who is running either of those governments,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.
“We are seeking to take no part in the internal issues of the Solomon Islands but simply to ensure that any issues they have can be addressed in a calm and peaceful way.”
Today, over 100 Australian personnel will travel to Solomon Islands, 43 of whom are members of the Defence Force from Townsville, Queensland. 23 Australian Federal Police officers will also make the trip.
Townsville-based MP Phillip Thompson said that Townsville personnel would “only be used as a last resort”.
“They will not be going straight out onto any active operation, but they will be used as needed on the ground,” Mr Thompson explained.
Personnel are expected to leave today.