Sydney, Australia, Nov 25 (EFE).- Australia Thursday said it would deploy dozens of soldiers and police officials to the Solomon Islands to help maintain security in the wake of violent anti-government protests in the Pacific Island nation.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra that the deployment of military and police personnel was strictly in response to a request from Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and within the framework of a bilateral security treaty.
“Our presence there does not indicate any position on the internal issues of the Solomon Islands,” Morrison said.
The archipelago holds geo-strategic importance in the Pacific, where China’s growing influence has triggered concerns of the United States and its allies.
Morrison said the deployment might last for weeks, but the government would be assessing it “on a very regular basis.”
A total of 23 police officials would be sent “immediately” to help control riots, while another 50 will be deployed to support security at critical infrastructure, excluding the parliament and government buildings.
They will be joined by 43 soldiers, who will travel to the islands Friday to support security at critical infrastructure, including the Honiara airport.
Morrison’s announcement came after the second day of protests on the Solomon Islands calling for Sogavare’s resignation.
Protesters attacked Chinese businesses and looted and torched buildings in Honiara despite the declaration of a 36-hour curfew in the capital on Wednesday night.
Violence erupted after some 1,000 people, mainly from the country’s most populous Malaita province, protested to call for the resignation of Sogavare, who in 2019 ended 36 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China.
As tempers rose, the police tried to quash riots in the vicinity of the parliament using tear gas and rubber bullets.
The Solomon Islands is the third most populated nation in the South Pacific after Papua New Guinea and Fiji and one of the poorest countries in the region.
The country, made up of almost 1,000 islands, has a population of close to 650,000 inhabitants, most of them of Melanesian origin. There are descendants of the Polynesian, Micronesia, and Chinese ethnic groups also.
Over 200 people lost their lives, and thousands got displaced in ethnic conflicts between rival armed groups in the archipelago between 1998 and 2003.
It led to the deployment of Australian-led peacekeeping forces between 2003 and 2013. EFE