Solomon Islands Chinatown Burned

Today's Pacific Islands Report carries the distressing news that much of Honiara's picturesque Chinatown quarter has been burned by rioters incensed at the selection of Snyder Rini as prime minister. The protesters also tried to set alight the Chinese-owned Pacific Casino Hotel and 100 guests had to be evacuated.

From 1999 to 2003, Solomon Islands was racked by ethnic fighting which destroyed the economy and displaced thousands of residents of Guadalcanal Island. All this was supposed to have ended with an Australian-led military intervention, but the outgoing prime minister, Allan Kemakeza, continued in office despite numerous allegations of corruption. Rini was Kemakeza's deputy, and he has been accused of vote buying with funds supplied by Taiwan and local Chinese business interests.

Obviously, a lot of people in Honiara are very unhappy with the way the discredited old guard has managed to cling to political power, and their frustration is once again tearing the country apart. Australia is sending another 120 police and military personnel to the Solomons to help control the situation.

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