As Australia deploys troops and police, what now for Solomon Islands?

theconversation.com
4 min read
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It is way too simple to say the current unrest is just due to Solomon Islands' new allegiance towards China.
On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would deploy police, diplomats and defence force personnel to Solomon Islands "to provide assistance" following serious unrest in the capital, Honiara.

As the initial deployment start their first day in Honiara, there are mixed reports of what is happening around them. Australia's rapid response follows a request from the Solomon Islands government.

What has been happening?

On Wednesday, there were protests against the government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, which deteriorated into rioting.

These riots persisted, despite a snap 36-hour lockdown, ordered by the government to keep people off the streets. Thankfully, it appears there have been minimal injuries. However, damage to property has been extensive. Businesses in the Chinatown district were targeted, as has happened on several occasions previously. Public infrastructure, including at least one police post and the Honiara High School was also attacked.

After two days of rioting, looting, and arson, things seem to be a bit quieter on Friday. As Solomon Islanders emerge from the lockdown, they are taking stock, assessing damage, and starting to focus on what happens next for them, their communities, and their country.

Why has this happened?

The question of why this is happening involves a complex mix of domestic politics and geopolitical shifts.

It is way too simple to say that this is because Solomon Islands "switched" allegiances from Taiwan to China in late 2019, as some analyses suggest. This was certainly a critical juncture for Solomon Islands. But to understand what is happening now, we need to take a wider and deeper perspective.

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