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Australia to send troops and police to Solomon Islands amid unrest

Australian Defence Force personnel and federal police will be deployed to Solomon Islands as the Island nation faces a second day of rioting.Key points:Australia will deploy police and troops to the Solomon Islands to maintain stabilityThe archipelago has seen a second day of violence and rioting in the capitalThe Prime Minister says the deployment is expected to last several weeksPrime Minister said 23 members of the Australian Federal Police’s Specialist Response Group would be deployed “immediately”.Another 50 AFP officers will be deployed to support critical infrastructure on Friday, as well as 43 Defence Force personnel from Army units based in Townsville.”Our purpose here is to provide stability and ,” Mr Morrison said following a meeting of the Committee of cabinet on Thursday afternoon.The Defence deployment includes around 30 troops from the Army’s 3rd Brigade, medical personnel and military police.Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara has been wracked with unrest in recent days.On Wednesday, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse large crowds demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.  Honiara is under lockdown conditions after violent protests.(ABC News: Christina Aumanu-Leong)”The call for me to step down is premised on the hunger for power by certain politicians who do not have any respect for the principles of and due process,” Mr Sogavare said in a statement published by the Solomon Times newspaper on Thursday night.”I have been in contact with the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, seeking their assistance to assist our country, which is forthcoming,” he added.The Prime Minister requested Australia’s help under a security treaty the country signed with Australia in 2017.The former high commissioner to Solomon Islands, James Batley, said given the Solomon Islands had initiated the request under the treaty, Australia was obliged to intervene.”It was definitely the right thing to have done, but it was really the only choice,” he told the ABC.”The benefit of the treaty is that it really clears away all the legal requirements that would have to be gone through if we were doing this from scratch. So it really accelerates the extent to which Australia is able to respond.”LoadingMr Sogavare on Wednesday announced a 36-hour lockdown of Honiara after the protests, which saw buildings, including a police station, set on fire.Fresh protests broke out in the capital on Thursday, with smoke seen rising from Honiara’s Chinatown district.The unrest relates to anger over government services, , and disputes over Solomon Islands government’s move to more closely align itself with .Mr Morrison said he had received reports of buildings being burned in the centre of the city, including a large commercial building and a bank branch.Mr Bately said the civil unrest may be able to be brought under control in the coming days with the support from reinforcements, but there is a lot of work to be done to address the country’s wider issues. “It may well be possible to put a lid on the immediate security problem,” he said.”In the longer term, the Solomons has got a lot of problems and they’re not amenable to a quick fix. That’s a very long-term task.” Unrest has continued in Honiara, as buildings have been set on fire.(Reuters: Georgina Kekea )Ricky Fuoo, head of Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce, said it was a “sad day for this country”.”Businesses have been struggling over the past few years, just to stay afloat because of the … COVID-19 crisis,” he told the ABC.”It’s setting us back almost 20 years now and, you know, we thought we were past this.”Solomon Islands has managed to record just 20 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic begun by maintaining border closures, however it has relatively low rates of vaccination.The ABC understands all AFP personnel travelling to the country are fully vaccinated and will undergo rapid COVID-19 testing prior to deployment.Australian deployment not an intervention in political affairs, PM saysMr Morrison said he expected the Australian deployment to last “a matter of weeks”.”Our purpose here is to provide stability and security to enable the normal constitutional processes, within the Solomon Islands, to be able to deal with the various issues that have arisen,” he said.What’s behind Honiara’s violent protests?The federal government deploys AFP and ADF personnel to the Solomon Islands amid civil unrest in the Pacific country. Here’s why Australia is getting involved.Read more”It is not the Australian government’s intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands, that is for them to resolve.”In a situation like this where there is once again civil unrest, we are there to help them, because they are very dear to us as part of our Pacific .”Foreign Minister said staff and families at the Australian mission in Honiara were safe.Senator Payne said the Department of was advising Australians to avoid demonstrations and roadblocks, and monitor local media.A Assistance Mission was sent to Solomon Islands in 2003 and maintained a presence there until 2017.