More peacekeepers to arrive in Solomon Islands after bodies found

By Jackson Graham

November 29, 2021

An Australian Army soldier
An Australian Army soldier talks with local citizens during a community engagement patrol through Honiara. (Cpl. Brandon Grey/Department of Defence via AP)

Unrest in the Solomon Islands has left three people dead, as more Australian peacekeepers arrive to restore order and protect infrastructure. 

Three bodies were discovered in a store in the Chinatown district late on Friday, the ABC reported, with a curfew imposed on the capital that night. 

Henry Puna, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, said Australia and Papua New Guinea’s efforts to support the Salmon Islands were encouraging and he was confident the government of the day would resolve the situation. 

“I am especially concerned by the deaths reported so far,  and note the importance of the rule of law and safety of all communities through this difficult time,” Puna said. 

“Peace and security in our respective member countries is inextricably linked to peace and stability at the regional level.” 

On Saturday, an initial 23 members of the Australian Federal Police and representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were already on the ground, according to Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews. 

Fifteen NSW Police officers are also due to be sworn into the AFP and join them on the ground in the Solomon Islands in the coming days. 

Last week, about 50 Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary officers arrived in Honiara on a chartered flight from Port Moresby. 

In a joint statement with PNG’s foreign Affairs minister Hon Soroi Eoe, Australian foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said the two countries were “aiming to help restore calm and allow normal constitutional processes to operate”. 

“Australia and Papua New Guinea share a joint commitment to regional security and stability and an enduring economic and security partnership with our Pacific Family,” they said. 

The Solomon Islands government’s decision to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019 has been reported as the main source of the conflict, but experts say deeper issues have also caused the unrest. 

ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs fellow Dr Kerryn Baker said the latest riots highlighted much deeper issues in the Solomon Islands that had been “boiling away” for years. 

“The response by the Australian Government is not without precedent. Past assistance missions have helped restore peace,” Baker said. 

Dr Sinclair Dinnen, a senior fellow at the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, said the civil unrest highlighted the fragility of nationhood in the Solomon Islands. 

“While much of the focus over the last two decades of intervention has been on propping up and strengthening the key institutions of the Solomon Islands state, less attention has been paid to the need to build a sense of national community,” Dinnen said. 

“There has also been a lot of behind-the-scenes politicking going on to dislodge the current government, which is symptomatic of the inherently unstable kinds of coalition government that Solomon Islands has had since independence and the patrimonial politics that animates them.”


READ MORE:

Morrison dispatches Australian troops to offer ‘stability and security’ to Solomon Islands

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