‘Nobody is going out of their homes’: Unrest in Solomon Islands spreads to capital as curfew begins

Unrest in the Solomon Islands has spread to the capital, the main town is on edge and residents are staying indoors as police impose a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew.

“We have declared a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew with the aim of protecting life and property,” Chief Superintendent Alvin Terekea told AP on Friday.

Many of the angry crowds have gone on social media and are calling for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Several shops in Honiara are closed and the airport is restricted to U.S. and Australian private flights. There are also several blocked roads leading to the capital.

“The streets are now a ghost town. People are not going out of their homes,” Bloomberg reported from the country’s capital, where public servants have been told to stay away from work until further notice.

The situation has had a detrimental effect on the local economy. “It is a very important moment for the nation. Our economy depends on tourism and we were quite worried about the impact if the unrest continues,” Andrew Tanata, who runs an entertainment company in Honiara, told Reuters.

Tensions grew Wednesday after opposition lawmakers claimed to have evidence that Sogavare had sold off government assets before returning to power. The government has denied the claims, and lawmakers took to the streets with plans to impeach the prime minister. He had called out soldiers for help and the governor general flew to the capital to intervene, but most of the lawmakers still decided to leave the country to protect their families.

“The confusion in the executive at this time of year brings home to our fellow countrymen and women that the priority of the Solomon Islands is security and public order,” Tom Burnett, a policeman and minister in the cabinet, told Bloomberg. “We know that people are not happy that they don’t have power and the government is broken up but safety is No. 1.”

Since the unrest began, police have arrested 23 people and are investigating some MPs for plotting to use violence and mayhem to overthrow the government.

Foreign Minister Glynn Berry has urged the public to stay calm and be patient. “The situation is dangerous. If someone believes that they can achieve their goals through violence, that it is best to seek to do that. If you choose to resist peacefully, the government will never tolerate violence. We will react accordingly,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday.

The United Nations, United States and Australia have been briefed about the situation and are providing assistance in terms of protection for the country’s diplomatic corps and embassy officials.

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