Solomon Islands prime minister loses to ‘iron grip’ over party, calls for protests


The governor general of the Solomon Islands has dissolved parliament and called a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare after he called off the nation’s commitment to international debt relief aimed at cleaning up $3 billion in government debt.

Prime Minister Sogavare has said that delaying the release of the debt relief, which was given the go-ahead by the IMF and the World Bank and was signed last week, was done to ensure that crucial economic reforms are implemented.

Mr Sogavare won the parliamentary seat in the 2014 election on the back of promises to push through the debt relief.

People in the island country of Guadalcanal are angry about the cancellation.

Hundreds took to the streets, destroying cars and burning tires, and police were unable to stop the violence.

“I gave him that debt forgiveness for debt responsibility and then he started taking us backward,” said Samuel Ambiafuli, a 25-year-old taxi driver in the capital, Honiara.

Mr Sogavare’s former partner, Patrick Paia, said the prime minister was displaying what people expect from him.

“We know what he is,” she said. “He is the same person.”

Many people are calling for Mr Sogavare to resign. He said that while he was concerned about his own safety, the violence in Honiara wasn’t affecting his ability to govern.

“Our safety is not affected by what’s happening to me,” he said. “What is affecting me is that I do not want to be any part of violence.”

Mr Sogavare, in office since 2013, survived a no-confidence vote last month by beating back a no-confidence motion by 50 to 45.

At the time, Mr Sogavare claimed he had an “iron grip” on his party, the opposition and independents.

Critics say he used the dissolution of parliament as a ploy to stay in power.

According to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, 50 members of parliament have endorsed the no-confidence motion, and three have said they will not vote against it.

The BBC asked one opposition MP, who asked not to be named, whether Mr Sogavare could ultimately be voted out.

“He is foolish in relying on his security detail,” the MP said. “I don’t know if he will come out of this alive.”

The UN Resident Coordinator in Solomon Islands, Pamela Shoneman, expressed concern over the violence in Honiara.

She said: “There is not any excuse for these riots or those that have accompanied them,” the BBC reported. “I hope the unrest in Honiara will be settled as soon as possible.”

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