Australia sends peacekeeping troops to the Solomon Islands after unrest

NAfter the violent unrest in the Solomon Islands, Australia sends dozens of soldiers and police officers on a peacekeeping mission to the Pacific island nation. The soldiers should help to create “stability and security,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It is not the intention of the Australian government to interfere in any way in the internal affairs of the country.

The dispatch of the initially 23 police officers and 43 soldiers is happening at the request of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, reported the newspaper The Australian on Thursday. After the demonstrators tried unsuccessfully to storm the parliament in the capital on Wednesday and several buildings went up in flames, the government imposed a lockdown for 36 hours. Nevertheless, the riots continued on Thursday. Several shops and buildings burned in the Chinese Quarter in the capital, Honiara.

Between Beijing and Taipei

According to the Australian media, the protesters are calling for Prime Minister Sogavare to resign. Experts see tensions between the central government and the political leadership of the most populous and economically underdeveloped island of Malaita as the trigger for the riots. Many participants in the initially peaceful protests are said to come from the island. According to experts, there has long been displeasure about the allegedly unjust distribution of resources by the central government, which is based on the island of Guadalcanal in the capital Honiara. The dispute between the government and the province also has a foreign policy dimension. Two years ago, the Solomon Islands decided to terminate relations with Taiwan that had existed since 1983 and instead recognize the People’s Republic of China. The regional prime minister of Malaita, Daniel Suidani, maintained relations with Taiwan at the time. The island province has received several aid projects from Taiwan.

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For years, Beijing and Taipei in the South Pacific have been vying for recognition by the small island states there. The South Pacific island states are also receiving increasing attention in the geopolitical competition between China and America. After the headquarters began relations with Beijing, Washington promised Malaita Province aid amounting to 25 million dollars, a multiple of the aid it would otherwise receive in normal years.

The current protests escalated into violence on Wednesday after a hut next to parliament went up in flames. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators. Later a police station and several other buildings burned down. The unrest is reminiscent of earlier periods of instability, during which Australia and New Zealand once also sent troops to the island nation to restore calm. “I honestly hoped we’d put our dark past behind us. But today it became clear that we still have a long way to go, ”Prime Minister Sogavare said on Wednesday during a speech to the nation.

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