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Solomon Islands: Aftermath

Solomon Islands: Aftermath

Report by Yasmine Ryan
Images by Jason Dorday – Click To View " Photo Essay: Welcome To China Town, Honiara"
On Assignment in the Solomon Islands for

Kiwi troops patrol the streets of China Town

(Honiara, 27 April 2006) – On day three in Solomon Islands, we decided to skip Parliament. After PM Snyder Rini’s resignation yesterday, people were surprised it was even sitting, as no new government coalition has formed yet. Word was that Solomon Island’s politicians get paid according to daily appearances in Parliament, which may have been the real motivation for today.

Instead, we met with Sarah Dyer, National Women’s Council, one of 25 women who stood for parliament in the elections three weeks ago. None won their seat, but Sarah came a close second in hers. She was expected by many to win. ( See next week for audio and feature story).

After a candid interview, Sarah took us round to the National Women’s Council offices, which are in the YWCA building. Next door, kids in the YWCA kindergarten were frightened by a Ramsi helicopter hovering above.

On the streets of China Town – Click Image for photo essay

Next stop for Scoop was the ruins of Chinatown, beginning with the Red Cross head quarters. The extent of the destruction was astounding and incredibly thorough. A toxic smell was thick in the air. Chinatown was certainly not deserted, however. The street was full of people scavenging for anything they could find.

From the very young to the very old they were there, armed with plastic bags to collect their treasures. One shell of a building that proved particularly popular must have been a convenience store. We ventured ‘inside’ to see what people were gathering; it turned out to be warped tins of food. Others gathered wiring and any remotely retrievable bits of hardware.

We had hoped to find an ethnic Chinese person to interview, but virtually all had abandoned what once was Chinatown. We did encounter two, but neither was willing to be interviewed. The first was a young man with a kiwi accent, who emerged from what used to be a shop and his family’s home. He was calling his dog. A flap of corrugated iron across the front had ‘No Waku’ (Pidgin for Chinese) spray-painted across it. Yes he had been there last week, and it was ‘devastating’.

The other we met stood in front of his business at the very top of the street, speaking on his cellphone. Exceptionally, his was one of very few which had been untouched. The man told us he wasn’t ‘exactly a local’, although he was born in the Solomon Islands. He didn’t stick around long enough to satisfy our curiosity as to why the rioters had exempted his property.

NZ Defence Minister Phil Goff talks to Fortuna Restaurant owner Patrick Leong

The afternoon revolved around NZ Defence Minister Phil Goff’s visit, which meant the media was treated to a series of staged appearances: in front of the Hercules he arrived on, at the grave of his uncle John Goff (a 19 year old soldier who died here in 1942), outside the former Fortuna Restaurant with its owner Patrick Leong, strolling through Chinatown… The heat made the bunny-hopping hard to endure, and many of the media abandoned the trail.

Nothing much is set to happen in the political arena here until next Thursday, when Parliament is set to vote again on the Prime Minister. Manesha Sogavare remains the hot favourite.

(coverage continuing…)

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