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Situation remains tense in Honiara as opposition accuses Manasseh Sogavare of being ‘in the service of a foreign power’.

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

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

Church leaders have called for dialogue between the nation’s most populous province, Malaita, and the national government to resolve a range of domestic issues amid broader geopolitical tensions.

Opposition leader Matthew Wale outlined grievances in parliament, including the accusation Sogavare was using money from China in a national fund to prop up his political strength ahead of the vote and was “in the service of a foreign power”.

A Government Gazette notice dated December 2 shows money was withdrawn from the National Provident Fund in the name of 22 legislators in recent days.

Four government members of parliament (MPs) have resigned; a further 10 government MPs must vote against Sogavare for the no-confidence motion to succeed.

“The Prime Minister is dependent on the NDF [National Development Fund] money to maintain his political strength. How can he make decisions only in the interests of the Solomon Islands?” said Wale.

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 province.

Malaita has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province, where the national government is based, and it opposed the switch by Sogavare’s government in 2019 to formally recognise China instead of Taiwan.

Malaita province was the “big brother” in the Solomon Islands family and had the capacity to stand up to the national government, Wale said on Monday.

Health minister Culwick Togamana spoke in support of Sogavare’s leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said he should not resign. There have been 20 cases and no deaths in the country, according to the World Health Organization.

The vote is expected to take place later on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera

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