Chinese owned businesses set ablaze in Honiara. Photo: Twitter

The Archbishop of Melanesia has pleaded with Anglicans not to participate in anti-government riots in the Solomon Islands that have paralyzed the capital of Honiara and led to the declaration of martial law by the government of Prime Minister  Manasseh Sogavare.

Demonstrators called for the resignation of Mr. Sogavare on Tuesday, angered by his pro-Peking foreign policies. In 2019 Mr. Sogavare’s government ended 36 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan after mainland China offered large financial inducements to the government, including constructing a national stadium on Guadalcanal.

By Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021, the ranks of the protestors had grown to over a thousand, Radio New Zealand reported, with many arriving from the neighboring island of Malaita — the country’s most populous province. The premier of Malaita, Daniel Sudani, opposed cutting ties with Taiwan, and has angered Mrl Sogavare and Peking accepting COVID aid from Taiwan.

A planned peaceful march on the capital turned violent on Wednesday when protesters began to clash with police. A police station, Chinese-owned businesses, the Solomon Islands Senior High School, and parts of the parliament building were set alight.  Videos posted on social media show police firing rubber bullets at protesters and the looting of Chinese owned stores. Fires can also be seen spreading from building to building in the Chinatown commercial district.

On 25 Nov 2021 the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM), the Most Rev. Leonard Dawea, called on all members of ACOM to “refrain from participating in illegal activities including the wanton destruction of property and looting of businesses.”

A statement released by ACOM and reprinted by the Solomons Star said: “The Archbishop is very concerned about the destruction of both private and public properties as witnessed on Wednesday and pleads with ACoM members, in particular our youths, to respect one another and remain at home at this very volatile situation.

“He also calls on all Church and Community leaders in and around Honiara to advise your youths against these activities.

“Involving in violence can only hurt ourselves as we are now experiencing with the sudden lock down of Honiara which has now resulted in many struggling to survive.

“The Archbishop acknowledges that people may be frustrated by what is happening in our country regarding our political leadership, but there are more peaceful means of resolving these than resorting to violence.

“At the same time the Archbishop is calling on the political leadership of this country to listen to our people’s concerns and to appropriately address them.”

Radio New Zealand said Wednesday’s protest was reminiscent of civil unrest in 2006. Following disputed elections rioters set fire to the Chinatown section in protest to the growing presence of Chinese-owned businesses in the country.