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Australia sends troops to Solomon Islands to help contain protests

AUSTRALIA announced today that it was sending police, troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands after anti-government demonstrators defied lockdown orders and took to the streets for a second day of protests.

“Our purpose here is to provide stability and security,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters today.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare declared a lockdown Wednesday after about 1,000 people gathered in protest in the capital, Honiara, demanding his resignation over a host of domestic issues, such as alleged corruption, vote rigging, and the PM’s centralisation of power.

Local media reported that many of the protesters were from Malaita, whose premier, Daniel Suidani, has been at odds with Mr Sogavare.

Mr Suidani told the Solomon Star News that he agreed with the calls for Mr Sogavare to resign.

“Over the last 20 years Mannaseh Sogavare has been in power, the plight of Solomon Islanders has worsened while at the same time foreigners have reaped the best of the country’s resources,” Mr Suidani said.

“People are not blind to this and do not want to be cheated anymore.”

Mr Sogavare requested assistance from Australia amid the violence under a bilateral security treaty, the Australian PM said.

“It is not the Australian government’s intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands. That is for them to resolve,” Mr Morrison said.

Also forming part of the conflict between the Prime Minister and the opposition is the government’s apparent unilateral decision to switch the islands’ diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.

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