New Zealand Deploys Naval Ship as Malaita Province Leader Seeks Independence from Solomon Islands
11:36 GMT 07.12.2021 (Updated: 20:11 GMT 19.10.2022)
Surviving a no-confidence motion by a 32 votes to 15 on Monday, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, vowed to complete his fourth term. He added that he would not give in to “calls to resign by Taiwan’s agents”, blaming the Malaita provincial government for unrest in his capital Honiara.
Pre-empting a return of violence in the capital of the Solomon Islands, New Zealand has deployed a protector-class patrol vessel, HMNZS Wellington, with a crew of 80 and a Seasprite helicopter on board.
The vessel will conduct security patrols near the Islands’ waters for a month, according to a report in Stuff, an online current affairs outlet in New Zealand.
“HMNZS Wellington will provide reassurance to Solomon Islands' people by providing a visible maritime patrol presence and also, if requested by Solomon Islands authorities, will be able to assist with embarking Royal Solomon Islands Police Force or other partner nations’ authorised personnel to conduct boarding and inspections of suspicious vessels,” the spokesman said.
Security personnel and equipment have been deployed to the area by the New Zealand Defence Forces (NZDF) since 2 December after the Solomon Islands Government
issued a formal request for assistance after unrest in the country.
The NZDF contingent includes the Wellington-based deployable Joint Interagency Task Force
members and Linton-based NZ Army personnel. The NZDF has said that more vehicles and equipment will be transported on a C-130 Hercules to Honiara if required.
The forces have been deployed because the Solomon Islands’ neighbours fear that more violence might erupt in the coming days as the Malaita Provincial Government
piles on the pressure to gain its independence.
Malaita - the most populous province of the Solomon Islands - has a cultural link with Taiwan and the Sogavare government has blamed the people of the province for riots in the capital Honiara.
Malaita Provincial Premier Daniel Suidani, a prime opponent of Prime Minister Sogavare’s decision to switch diplomatic engagement from Taipei to Beijing, said on Monday that he wrote a letter to the United Nations Security Council to survey at the earliest to fulfill the demand of autonomy from Solomon Islands.
Suidani has cited recommendations in the Townsville Peace Agreement (TPA) for an independent Malaita.
“We have to move to another level. This idea was already with the UN so let’s ask them to come down and survey this thing. Let’s move to the legal way, the way they agree to it,” Malaita's chief, Daniel Suidani, said during a public address in the provincial capital, Auki.
The TPA agreement was signed between Solomon Island’s government and ethnic militia who were trying to achieve autonomy for Malaita in November 2000.
27 November 2021, 18:54 GMT
“We will push, and we will talk, and we will negotiate it when those from the US come, and I will inform the public of this as well," he said, adding that his government will hold a referendum from January 2022 by itself to press the UN to act on the matter.
Suidani emphasised that the result of the no-confidence motion will not affect his determination to seek justice for the people of Malaita. On Monday, Prime Minister Sogavare defeated the no-confidence motion by 32 to 15 votes.
Blaming the Malaita provincial government for the three-day violence beginning 24 November, Sogavare said: “The call for me to resign and this motion was made against the backdrop of an illegal attempted coup.”
Taiwan denies involvement in the unrest.
China’s embassy in the Solomon Islands vowed to defeat any attempt to damage bilateral relations between Beijing and Honiara, adding that their ties will overcome all difficulties.