Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Honiara riots were political: report


Rioting that razed part of the Solomon Islands' capital last year was politically motivated and was not caused by anger at Chinese immigrant traders, a government-commissioned report concluded.

In an interim reported released yesterday, a commission of inquiry into the violence said security forces - which were under the control of an Australia and New Zealand-led mission - were unprepared and could not handle the situation.

Hundreds of people went on a rampage that erupted on April 18 last year, outside the Pacific island country's parliament when Snyder Rini was announced as the winner of just-held elections.

The violence quickly spread and raged for two days, leaving most of the downtown business district destroyed burned and ransacked.

Hundreds of people, including ethnic Chinese businessmen, fled, though no one was killed.

Australia and New Zealand sent more troops to restore order.

Eventually, Rini was forced to resign and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare came to power.

At the time, officials blamed the riots on widespread anger toward Rini for alleged corruption and for being "manipulated" by Chinese immigrants who controlled much of the country's commerce.

But the commission, headed by former Papua New Guinea judge Brian Brunton, concluded the riot was politically motivated.

"The assertions that the riot was a spontaneous outburst because of the corruption of the previous government and its links with the Chinese ... does not ring true," he said in the report.

"The evidence suggests that a group of persons planned events and decided that if their candidate was not elected prime minister ... they would cause such trouble so as to force a regime-change," he said.

He did not name any suspected orchestrators of the violence.

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