New Zealand sends troops to assist in Solomon Islands

Thursday saw more looting and burning in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara as local police were overwhelmed by angry mobs. November 2021 Photo: Solomons/Facebook via RNZ
Thursday saw more looting and burning in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara as local police were overwhelmed by angry mobs. Photo: Solomons/Facebook via RNZ
Dozens of soldiers and police officers will travel to the Solomon Islands to assist the local government after days of deadly rioting and unrest, and a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The crisis erupted last week with three days of rioting, blamed partly on poverty, hunger and frustration with government policies.

The conflict claimed at least three lives as crowds tried to torch the prime minister's private residence before being dispersed by police.

On Tuesday the Solomon Islands Government requested assistance from New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today New Zealand had answered the call, and would tomorrow send troops to assist.

"New Zealand is committed to its responsibilities and playing its part in upholding regional security," Ardern said.

"We are deeply concerned by the recent civil unrest and rioting in Honiara, and following yesterday's request of the Solomon Islands Government, we have moved quickly to provide urgent assistance to help restore sustained peace and security.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said it would be a "short-term, immediate response", but they would continue monitoring the situation.

"New Zealand has a deep and long-standing partnership with Solomon Islands, and we assured them of our willingness to support our Pacific whānau through this difficult time."

Defence Minister Peeni Henare said an initial New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) assessment team of about 15 personnel would head to Honiara tomorrow, followed by a larger group of up to 50 NZDF and police at the weekend.

The New Zealand contingent will work to support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, and also work alongside counterparts from Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Police Minister Poto Williams said New Zealand police had a long relationship with the Solomon Islands, having a presence in Honiara for years.

"Over the past week they have been providing advice and support to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force on the ground, and these extra personnel will provide community liaison and engagement support."

All personnel are required to be double vaccinated, have had a negative Covid-19 test before departure and adhere to Solomon Islands protocols. They will complete managed isolation on their return.

Last Wednesday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare declared a lockdown after about 1000 people gathered in protest in the capital Honiara demanding his resignation over a host of domestic issues.

The protesters breached the National Parliament building and burned the thatched roof of a nearby building, the government said. They also set fire to a police station and other buildings.

Australia recently deployed about 100 soldiers and police officers to Honiara following a request from the Solomon Islands.

The first personnel were to arrive on Thursday night with more going on Friday, and the deployment was expected to last for a few weeks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Last week, local media reported that many of the protesters were from Malaita, whose premier Daniel Suidani has been at odds with Sogavare, whom he accuses of being too close to Beijing.

 

 

drivesouth-pow-generic-1.png

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter