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Solomon Islands PM faces confidence vote

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare faces a motion of no confidence after anti-government riots saw dozens of buildings burned down and shops looted in the Pacific island’s capital.

Boats have been banned from Honiara harbour, and more than 200 police and soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are on alert, amid fears Monday’s vote could trigger another outbreak of violence.

However, Monday’s motion is not expected to gain enough support from government MPs to pass, even though four of them have resigned.

Church leaders called for talks between the national government and the most populous province of Malaita to resolve a range of domestic issues and a dispute over the switching of diplomatic ties to China from Taiwan in 2019.

Sogavare was “in the service of a foreign power”, opposition leader Matthew Wale said in parliament, accusing the prime minister of using money from China in a national fund to prop up his political strength before the vote.

“The prime minister is dependent on the National Development Fund money to maintain his political strength,” Wale said.

“How can he make decisions only in the interests of the Solomon Islands?”

Sogavare’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The people of the Solomon Islands are angry at inadequate healthcare, prime land being taken by foreigners, and logging companies overriding local interests, Wale said.

The looting and violence that erupted on November 24 must be condemned, he said, but “it pales in comparison to the looting that happens at the top”.

Anti-government protests spiralled into violence that killed four people and destroyed large parts of Honiara’s Chinatown after Sogavare refused to speak with protesters who had travelled from Malaita.

The province has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province where the national government is based, and opposed the 2019 switch.

About 1000 people gathered in the provincial capital of Auki to listen to a livestream of the parliament session.

A political aide to Malaita’s premier Daniel Suidani told Reuters it appeared the no-confidence motion would be defeated.

Suidani is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday outlining a referendum for independence for Malaita, the adviser Celsus Talifilu said by telephone.

Health minister Culwick Togamana backed Sogavare’s leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic and said he should not resign.

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