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Solomon Islands: The Tables Are Turned

Solomon Islands: The Tables are Turned

Report by Yasmine Ryan
Images by Jason Dorday – Click To View Photo Essay
On Assignment in the Solomon Islands for

The hands of the people celebrate in unison after Snyder Rini`s resignation. The day has seen an emotional turn-around with thousands taking to the streets in celebration.

(Honiara, 26 April 2006) – In stark contrast with the mood last week, ordinary Solomon Islanders, in Honiara and across the islands, are today celebrating with exuberance. Sworn in only last Friday, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Snyder Rini was forced to resign this morning. Hon. John Patteson did not need to go ahead with his scheduled motion of no confidence. Patteson first gave Rini the opportunity to save face, calling on him to resign before the motion was passed. Rini accepted, knowing full well that he no longer had the numbers to maintain his post. “I have no alternative but to tender my resignation”, he professed.

Solomon's Prime Minister Snyder Rini resigns from his post of Prime Minister in Solomon Islands Parliament.

Parliament was under tight security, with snipers posted on the roof and the entire surroundings cordoned off. Ramsi (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) and the PPF (Participating Police Force) troops armed with assault rifles patrolled the area. Some had light machine guns pointed down the hill towards any potential rioters intending to swarm Parliament. Huey choppers with door gunners orbited the area.

Rini’s resignation, however, meant there was no repeat of the violence that marred his coming to power. Despite the arrest of two opposition MPs, which should have given Rini a majority in today’s vote, 4 to 6 members of his own party, led by Manesha Sogavare, decided to vote in support of the opposition’s motion. At the ad-hoc opposition head-quarters of the Iron Bottom Sound Hotel, Sogavare was made leader, which appears to have been the reward for his support. He now looks set to become Prime Minister, a role he previously held in 2000-2001.

Down on Honiara’s streets, people rejoiced at the news. As we left the Parliament, people had already heard the news from Solomons Islands Broadcasting Corporation radio. People were standing on the street, their teeth stained red with beetle nut. Cars paraded up and down the street, with youths hanging off the back. Flags were flown, and the honking and cheering resonated across the town.

Scoop spoke with a couple of the relieved crowd, who told us that if Rini had retained power the violence would have been worse than last week’s destructive riots. Jack Alufurai and Mike Sale were amongst many who had come from the provinces especially for today. The pair had come from Malaita on a boat full of like-minded Solomon Islanders who felt the motion of no confidence was vital to the nation’s interests. “Everything is going to be okay now” they told us, grinning.

Man stands listening to the opposition MPs talk to the crowd.

We followed the flow towards Iron Bottom Sound Hotel, where Sogavare spoke to those gathered through the bars of the gate. Eventually, he urged the crowd to be peaceful for the good of the Solomon Islands, which they did. Before departing, they joined their likely new Prime Minister in a verse of the national anthem, arms waving in the air.

(coverage continuing…)

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