Solomon Islands police yesterday fired tear gas in the capital, Honiara, as crowds of protesters set fire to buildings, including a police station, and looted shops in an eruption of anger at the government, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported.
The protest was led by people from the Pacific nation’s largest island, Malaita Province, about 120km from the capital.
They were demanding that Solomon Island Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare step down over failure to deliver promised infrastructure among other complaints, RNZ said.
The protest began peacefully, but most schools and businesses in Honiara were closed by the afternoon as crowds tried to enter the Solomon Island National Parliament building while lawmakers were in session, RNZ local correspondent Georgina Kekea reported.
“A lot of Honiara residents were caught by surprise with what has happened,” Kekea said. “It has really disrupted operations ... and now people are not feeling safe anymore. Everyone’s trying to run back to their homes now.”
Videos on social media showed buildings on fire and police firing tear gas to disperse looters.
In addition to the burned-out police station, black smoke was seen rising from the parliament grounds after a leaf hut was set on fire, RNZ reported.
As well as anger about lack of development, the Solomon Islands government has faced pressure over a 2019 decision to cut ties with Taiwan and establish a formal relationship with China.
There was no mention of the protest on the Facebook pages of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force or the prime minister’s press secretariat, and they could not immediately be contacted for comment.
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