New Zealand on Wednesday announced the deployment of troops to Solomon Islands to help the government restore law and order, officials said.
The move follows similar deployments by Australia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea after protests calling for the removal of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare turned violent last week in the capital Honiara.
The violence began when protesters stormed the parliament, and later defied a lockdown, and set fire to government buildings, a police station and businesses.
In a joint statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defense Minister Peeni Henare said armed defense forces and police personnel are being deployed on the request of the island's government.
“We are deeply concerned by the recent civil unrest and rioting in Honiara ... we have moved quickly to provide urgent assistance to help restore sustained peace and security," Ardern said.
Initially, New Zealand will deploy 15 personnel on Thursday, followed by a group of 50 defense forces and police personnel over the weekend.
Observers say the protests have been fueled by poverty, unemployment and inter-island rivalries in the nation of about 700,000 people.
Many also link the protests to Solomon Islands’ decision to shift its diplomatic relations to China from Taiwan in September 2019.
Most demonstrators are said to be from the most populous Malaita province, whose prime minister, Daniel Suidani, opposes the move to formally recognize China. Taiwan is a self-ruled island which China claims as its “breakaway province.”
Suidani visited Taipei for medical treatment in May, sparking protests from Sogavare's government.
*Writing by Islamuddin SajidAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.