Solomon Islands Govt Turns to Beijing Amid Ongoing Domestic Tensions

By Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
and Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
December 27, 2021 Updated: December 27, 2021

Beijing has confirmed it will send a police advisory team to the Solomon Islands, along with emergency riot equipment for police after the Solomon Islands government requested aid from the Chinese regime.

Spokesperson for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Zhao Lijian said on Dec. 23 that the personnel and the supplies would arrive in the Solomon Islands soon, adding that China firmly backs the government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s right to defend “the country’s stability” while condemning any illegal and violent actions.

Zhao also said Beijing supported the right of the Sogarvare government to safeguard the relations between “China and the Solomon Islands and the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”

The announcement that Sogarvare requested aid from Beijing comes after he survived a vote of no confidence on Dec. 6, after it was alleged that he had taken money from a national development fund provided by the CCP to bribe parliamentarians around the pacific nation.

Solomon Islands opposition leader Matthew Wale, who introduced the no-confidence motion, spoke out against the prime minister’s record and raised allegations of corruption.

In a speech that spanned three different languages, Wale said there was a “toxic culture” in the government and accused Sogavare of engaging in “state capture” and “selling this country—its resources, its birthright.”

State capture refers to the practice of introducing systemic corruption into a political system until it can no longer function for the public good.

“The prime minister is dependent on the National Development Fund money to maintain his political strength,” Wale said, referring to the government slush fund supported by Beijing.

“How is he then supposed to make decisions that are wholly only in the interests of Solomon Islands, untainted or undiluted by considerations of the [CCP] funds?”

Sogavare has rejected all allegations of corruption.

The accusation of corruption came just two weeks after rioting broke out in the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, on Nov. 25, after anger over the Sogavare leadership erupted.

Tensions have been brewing in the Island nation since 2019 after the Sogavare government dropped the Solomon Islands diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Epoch Times Photo
An anti-government message near a burnt-out building in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on Nov. 27, 2021. (Charley Piringi/AFP via Getty Images)

Daniel Suidani, the premier of Malaita—the most populous province in the pacific island nation—has repeatedly refused to follow the national government’s move in rejecting Taiwan and has maintained ties with Taiwanese leaders—embarrassing Sogavare. The divisions between Malaita and the capital are also said to have been a motivating factor for many of the protestors in November who are alleged to have hailed from the Malaita province.

The riots forced the Solomon Islands government to call on Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and the Papuan New Guinean governments to send troops over to help maintain peace within the nation.

But experts have criticized the decision to prop up the Sogavare government.

Cleo Paskal, an associate fellow of the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, said last November’s intervention from a coalition of Australian, New Zealand, Fijian, and Papua New Guinean forces to the Solomons provided breathing space to the pro-Beijing leader, who she said, was being pushed to stand down.

“Sogavare was losing his grip on power. His MPs were defecting; the police had gone to him to defuse the [protest] situation and recommended that he should consider stepping aside—not due to threats from the demonstrators—but just because he is incredibly unpopular across the country,” she told The Epoch Times.

“The announcement that Australia was sending troops saved him. He could then turn to MPs that were looking at defecting and say, ‘Look, both China and Australia back me. So, are you really going to go up against me?’” she added.

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.