Solomon Islands’s PM faces no-confidence vote after unrest

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The situation in Honiara remains tense as the opposition has accused Manasseh Sogaware of being ‘in the service of a foreign power’.

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Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogaware faced a motion of no confidence on Monday after anti-government riots burned down dozens of buildings and looted shops in the Pacific island capital Honiara last month.

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Boats have been banned from Honiara port, and more than 200 police officers and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are on alert for fear that the vote could trigger another outbreak of violence.

Church leaders have called for dialogue between the country’s most populous province, Malaita, and the national government to resolve a range of domestic issues amid widespread geopolitical tensions.

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Opposition leader Matthew Valle outlined complaints in parliament, including allegations that Sogaware was using money from China in a national fund to increase his political power ahead of the vote and was “in the service of a foreign power”. .

A government gazette notice dated December 2 shows that money was withdrawn from the National Provident Fund in the name of 22 MLAs in the recent past.

Four official Members of Parliament (MPs) have resigned; Another 10 government lawmakers will have to vote against Sogaware for the no-confidence motion to be successful.

“Prime Minister is dependent on NDF” [National Development Fund] money to maintain his political power. How can he take decisions only in the interest of Solomon Islands?” Vale said.

Vale said the people of the Solomon Islands are angry at inadequate healthcare, prime land being taken by foreigners, and companies that have been bypassing local interests.

The looting and violence that took place on November 24 should be condemned, he said, but “it is less than the loot that took place over the top”.

Anti-government protests turned into violence that killed four people and ravaged large parts of Honiara’s Chinatown after Sogaware refused to speak with protesters who had traveled from Malaita Province.

Malaita has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province, where the national government is based, and it opposed the switch in 2019 by Sogaware’s government to formally recognize China instead of Taiwan.

Vale said on Monday that Malaita Province was the “big brother” in the Solomon Islands family and had the ability to stand up to the national government.

Health Minister Kulvik Togmana spoke in support of Sogaware’s leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said he should not resign. According to the World Health Organisation, the country has reported 20 cases and no deaths.

Voting is likely to take place later on Monday.

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