06 December 2021

Solomon Islands leader wins no-confidence vote after riots

06 December 2021

The leader of the Solomon Islands has survived a vote of no confidence in parliament following riots in the capital city last month.

Prime minister Manasseh Sogavare told MPs in a fiery 90-minute speech that he had done nothing wrong and would not bow down to “the forces of evil” or to “Taiwan’s agents”.

At one point he picked up his chair and banged it on the Parliament floor to emphasise a point.

Opponents accused him and his government of lying, looting and using Chinese money to cling to power during a debate over a no-confidence motion brought by opposition leader Matthew Wale.

In the end, Mr Sogavare easily had the numbers, winning 32 votes to 15, with two abstentions.

Solomon Islands police and Australian Federal Police patrol road blocks in Honiara (AP) (AP)

The riots in Honiara grew from a peaceful protest and highlighted long-simmering regional rivalries, economic problems and concerns about the country’s increasing links with China.

Troops and police from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand have been helping keep the peace at the request of the Solomon Islands government.

Politicians debated the no-confidence motion throughout the day.

The opposition leader used a calm and measured tone that contrasted sharply with that of the prime minister. Mr Wale said he was hesitant to even bring the motion because it “may further add to what are already high levels of anger in certain quarters of our society”.

But Mr Sogavare said he would resist the no-confidence motion just as he had resisted calls to resign.

“If I resign, sir, it would be a message to our young children and youth, Mr Speaker, that whenever we are not happy with those in authority, we take the laws into our own hands,” Mr Sogavare said. “This is a very dangerous message to our people and future generations.”

Australian soldiers and federal police patrol the streets in Honiara, Solomon Islands (Gary Ramage via AP) (AP)

Mr Sogavare said Chinese money was crucial for the nation’s development.

Politician Rick Hounipwela argued that Mr Sogavare needed to go, saying there had been an increase in corruption and that the prime minister was blinded by “anything that glitters”.

But other politicians expressed support for Mr Sogavare.

Health minister Culwick Togamana said the government had been democratically elected and changing it now would vindicate the rioters, proving that the ends justify the means.

The riots and looting targeting Honiara’s Chinatown and downtown precincts erupted on November 24 following a protest in the capital by people from the province of Malaita.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators, who set fire to a police station and many other buildings.

The Solomon Islands has a population of about 700,000 and is located north-east of Australia.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox