An opportunity for dialogue, but questions still needing answers about the trigger point for reported peaceful protestors to turn into violent rioters, arsonists and looters

An opportunity for dialogue, but questions still needing answers about the trigger point for reported peaceful protestors to turn into violent rioters, arsonists and looters

Posted by : Frank Short Posted on : 02-Dec-2021
An opportunity for dialogue but questions still needing answers about the trigger point for reported peaceful protestors to turn into violent rioters arsonists and looters

Tomorrow will see the arrival of New Zealand Army personnel arrive in Honiara to join the loose coalition once more of a Regional Assistant Mission, albeit not in name, of Australian AFP( Australian Federal Police) and ADF troops, PNG troops and Fijian soldiers.

One Honiara resident, yesterday, offered the view that intervention by Australian personnel, the first deployed personnel to have arrived, was not needed.

The intervention forces so far, however, has led to a degree of normalcy in Honiara after the worst rioting and civil disorder since 2006

It has been said that despite the cease in violence and chaos, there are still underlying issues that need to addressed. Issues that cannot be swept under the carpet, issues that must be addressed through dialogue.

I agree with such a viewpoint and two of Solomon Islands leading and well know academics have said much of the same.

Dr Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, says that the cease in violence will enable Solomon Island leaders to engage in dialogue, which is important going forward. He says some of the issues are long term and nationwide, others are specific to the relationship between Malaitan President Suidani and the national government.

Writing separately, Dr, Trandform Aqorau has said, and I quote some of his words.

The riots in Honiara, disturbing the city’s normally quiet atmosphere, were unexpected but not surprising.

Someone made reference to a possible protest that would coincide with the convening of parliament, but details were sketchy and social media was tightlipped about a protest for a change.

Arguably, the riots are a culmination of a number of flashpoints that have been ignored these past few months.

At a “Tok Stori” Conference jointly held by the Solomon Islands National University and University of Melbourne on Wednesday 17 November, on the environment, conflict and peace, I spoke about unmasking the faces of those who control the Solomon Islands economy. I argued that even though 80% of land in Solomon Islands is owned by Solomon Islanders, they are largely bystanders, while outsiders, mainly Malaysian, Filipino, and Chinese loggers and mining companies control the resources and the political processes involving our politicians.

People might elect our members of parliament, but it is the logging companies, mining companies and other largely Asian-owned companies that underwrite the formation of government, (allegedly) influence the election of the Prime Minister, and keep ministers and government supporters under control after the elections. In return, if they want anything, or need special favours, they go directly to ministers and even the Prime Minister.

Indigenous Solomon Island business owners do not have the same access to our leaders. The political governance arrangements in Solomon Islands are shaped by the cozy co-existence between foreign loggers, miners and businesses. The influence of non-state actors in shaping political undercurrents in Solomon Islands cannot be ignored.

The protest were said to have been instigated by supporters from Malaita, but the frustration with the national government, the (alleged) attitude of the Prime Minister and ministers to provincial governments and provincial politicians, and the sense of alienation and disenfranchisement, is arguably shared across a wide spectrum of the country

People feel resentful when they see the national government giving a Malaysian company preferential tax status by virtue of an Act of Parliament, or $13 million as a deposit towards the construction of what are purportedly poor-quality prefabricated houses, while Solomon Islanders have to sleep on the floor in the emergency department of their hospital. Such things are inevitably bound to fuel resentment. When people see the government bypass local, indigenous contractors for the Pacific Games, it makes them antagonistic, and feel neglected. This sense of alienation, disempowerment and neglect has been building for some time.

Protest were intertwined with the complexity of the China-Taiwan, and national-provincial government political dynamics that have been well publicised. Malaitans in Malaita generally have been sympathetic to their Premier.

The thousands of supporters who showed up in truckloads from all wards in Malaita to stop the vote of no-confidence against Daniel Suidani should have sent a signal to national parliamentarians and the Prime Minister that it was time to set aside their differences.

End of quoted extracts.


Political viewpoints aside, I am still trying to come to terms with the trigger point that turned the initial peacefully gathered thousands of “protestors” into rioters, arsonists and looters.

What happened on the streets and at point did things take such an ugly and disastrous turn of events?

Was it the firing of tear gas by the police, so often in my experience an act that brought about riotous behavior?

Were there words said or provocative actions of one or more protesters that instigated the ensuing rioting?

Such questions, in my view still need answers, and in the case of my first question posed very important to know if standing orders on handling public order disputes were strictly followed by the police officers initially on the scene.

In respect of the second question, there needs to be a thorough investigation carried out by way of a official enquiry, if need be, as it was following the 2006 riots, to see if any agent provocateurs can be identified and prosecuted.


Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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