Solomons rioting, Oz cops injured, troops on the way

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bastarx
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Apr 19 2006 00:30
Solomons rioting, Oz cops injured, troops on the way

Three stories from the ABC. Most recent at the top.

Pete

RAMSI officers' riot response criticised

The Speaker of the Solomon Islands Parliament has criticised the way in which the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) has handled civil unrest in Honiara.

The swearing-in yesterday of the new Solomons Prime Minister, Snyder Rini, has sparked widespread riots and looting in the capital.

RAMSI officers have dispersed about 1,000 protesters, but the unrest continues across the city.

Sir Peter Kenilorea says he asked RAMSI officers not to use tear gas against the protesters.

"I specifically spoke to the RAMSI police officers not to take hasty actions as they did," he said.

"They should allow time for us to keep talking to the protesters at the Parliament House, not to use tear gas on them because it would simply aggravate the situation and it would simply take the Parliament situation or scene to the street."

Sir Peter says he had to order the officers out of his office.

"They were trying to organise themselves in the Parliament building," he said.

"I had to tell them to get the thing out of my office. It was Parliament House it's not an army barracks, they should organise themselves outside."

Seventeen Australian police officers have been hurt in the violence, including one who has a broken jaw.

That officer is expected to be flown back to Australia for medical treatment.

Troops request

Shane Castles, the Australian officer who heads policing in the Solomons, has requested that troops be deployed to the island nation.

"I did officially make the request through the RAMSI Special Coordinator's office for the deployment for the request to be made for the deployment of troops from Australia," he said.

"My advice, the advice that I've got is that up to 120 troops will be deployed from Australia today and should arrive in Honiara, we hope, by this evening."

Col Crampton, from the international deployment group 00, says the situation is slowly being brought under control.

"Police have several road blocks maintained, there's been major damage caused to a certain suburb overnight but at this stage it's reasonably calm," he said.

"There's people roaming the streets and a lot of larceny and looting taking place, it's just the local people that are roaming the streets."

Local security

Gloria Olsson, an Australian education and health adviser living in Honiara, says local security guards are helping maintain order.

Ms Olsson lives on the first floor of a Chinese-owned shop with three other Australian expatriates.

She says only the intervention of the local guards stopped looters from burning the building.

"They actually talked to them and talked them out of torching the building," she said.

"We just waited in the back, we had to go downstairs and wait for two hours while they completely demolished the building, looted, took everything and the staff said take everything but please don't torch it."

AFP requests military back-up in Solomons

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has requested that troops be sent to Solomon Islands after a night of rioting and looting in the capital, Honiara.

The violence began yesterday after the swearing-in of the new Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Snyder Rini.

Supporters of a rival blocked access to the Parliament, claiming the vote was rigged.

Shops have been ransacked and cars set on fire.

Seventeen Australian Federal Police officers, who are in the Solomons as part of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), have been injured in the unrest.

One officer has a broken jaw while another is expected to be returned home to Australia for treatment.

Shane Castles, the Australian in charge of policing in the Solomons, has told Southern Cross Radio he has requested that Australian troops be deployed.

"I did officially make the request through the RAMSI Special Coordinator's office for the deployment for the request to be made for the deployment of troops from Australia," he said.

"The advice that I've got is that up to 120 troops will be deployed from Australia today and should arrive in Honiara, we hope, by this evening."

Violence 'worrying'

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has told ABC Radio's AM the level of violence in Honiara is worrying.

"It just shows that in that country there is still an inherent instability and it underlines the need for us to keep the Regional Assistance Mission there for quite some time to come yet," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard says it is a deplorable situation and he hopes it will be resolved soon.

"I hope the situation stabilises because we do want democracy to work effectively in the Solomons and it has to be possible, of course, in a democratic society for a change of government, a change of prime minister to occur without a hostile response," he said.

Looting continues

RAMSI officers have worked through the night to disperse up to 1,000 looters in Honiara but the unrest is spreading across the city.

The head of the Solomon Islands Government Communications Unit, Johnson Honimae, says many shops in Chinatown have been destroyed and buildings elsewhere are on fire.

"It's all burnt down, most of the shops are down," she said.

"We didn't realise until this morning that the looting has gone way out of Chinatown and to the eastern part of the city.

"The eastern part of the city - there's a lot of Chinese manufacturing set ups and as I was passing there was a huge building that's basically up in flames."

Mr Honimae says the looting is continuing.

"People are actually still looting where … the smoke is coming out from this huge building," he said.

"People basically were walking, they smashed glass and they take shopping bags and basically pack stuff, it's like they've been on a shopping spree, it's just like it was normal.

"They're packing things properly, putting them in a bag and carrying them home."

8 AFP officers injured in Solomon Islands protest

Eight Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers have been injured in a violent protest in the Solomon Islands' capital, Honiara.

The protest was sparked by the election of the new prime minister Snyder Rini, when supporters of a rival candidate took to the streets complaining the election was rigged.

The violence has been the worst since an Australian-led mission to restore order in the Pacific nation began three years ago.

One of the injured officers is expected to be returned to Australia for treatment, while two others have already undergone surgery.

The injuries range from a broken jaw, to a dislocated shoulder and cuts.

Calm has now reportedly returned to the streets of Honiara.

Protesters had set alight at least five vehicles belonging to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and looted shops.

The spokesman for the opposition group which until yesterday was confident it had the numbers to win the election, Francis Billy Hilly, claimed the votes of some members of parliament were bought by Mr Rini's financial backers.

"Not only promises but gifts of money. So how can you fight that?" he said.

Mr Rini has categorically denied the bribery allegations.

Furthermore, Mr Rini said in a press conference that he felt safe, he was not feeling insecure about his personal security, and he says that Solomon Islanders had the right to express their opinion about what happens or decisions that are made in relation to their Government.

Prime Minister John Howard says while the injuries are not life threatening, it is a deplorable situation.

"All Australians will hope these officers who are serving the country overseas will make a full recovery," he said.

The officers are part of a 282 strong Australian contingent serving in the Solomon Islands.

The AFP says they are monitoring the situation before deciding if reinforcements are needed.

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PaulMarsh
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Apr 19 2006 07:58

Can there be anything cooler than men in skirts rioting!

Mr. T

smush
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Apr 20 2006 03:15

i wrote this for indymedia aotearoa: http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/44012/index.php

Riots broke out in the Solomon Islands after Snyder Rini was declared prime minister. However, there are caims that votes were bought by Mr Rini's financial backers. "Not only promises but gifts of money. So how can you fight that?" said Francis Billy Hilly, a spokesperson for the opposition. It has been reported that an angry crowd threw stones at the Parliament building, resulting in tear gas being fired by the police. Cars and buildings were set alight in Honiara and several Australian and New Zealand police officers were injured. [ Photos ]

In 2003, Australian and New Zealand troops and police were sent to the Solomon Islands "to prevent the Solomons from sliding into anarchy." (Quote from NZ Army). John Pilger writes that "Australian troops were dispatched to the Solomon Islands: to "police the chaos," meaning to secure the country for Australian business. Something similar is under way in Papua New Guinea, where a regime of privatisation, deregulation and "free trade" is being directed by a team from Australia."

Iggy Kim from zmag writes on the issue of neo-colonisation in the Pacific:

Barely had the Solomons intervention begun, John Howard was already talking up a plan to strengthen Australian domination over the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Answering a question at a July 22 press conference, Howard stated that "...many of these countries are too small to be viable... and we really have to develop an approach that I could loosely call... pooled regional govern-ance.... [I]t's just not possible if you've got an island state of fewer than 100,000 people to expect to have all of the sophisticated arms of government".

The next day, in an interview with the ABC, foreign minister Alexander Downer further clarified this proposal with a suggestion of trade liberalisation and a European Union-style common market for the southwest Pacific.

[...]

Sections of the foreign policy elite have been trying to push a more interventionist Pacific policy for some time, especially since the 2000 Solomons coup. At that time, Howard turned down Honiara's request for an Australian military deployment.

Nevertheless, the crisis got Canberra very worried. Weighed down by years of "free market" restructuring (largely pushed by Australia and New Zealand), more and more Pacific states have been hobbling closer to all-round crisis - one that the region's neo-colonial elites can no longer contain, such as in the Solomons.

In an article for Green Left Weekly in 2003 Doug Lorimer gets to the point of Australian and NZ intervention in the Solomon Islands: "[...] the real objective of this “police operation” is not to bring security to the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders, but to make the Solomons safe for Australian investors to exploit the islanders' labour and their natural resources."

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PaulMarsh
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Apr 20 2006 08:16

Sky news in the UK is reporting that the cause of the riots is that the Solomon's PM is seen as being too close to Chinese businessmen and to Taiwan?