The situation remains tense in Honiara while the opposition accuses Manasseh Sogavare of being “in the service of a foreign power”.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare survived a censure motion in parliament after accusing “Taiwan agents” of orchestrating the attempt to impeach him.
The pro-China leader won the support of 32 lawmakers on Monday, while 15 voted against him.
The vote came weeks after anti-government riots in the Pacific nation’s capital, Honiara, left four people dead and dozens of buildings looted and torched.
Violence erupted after Sogavare refused to speak with protesters who had traveled from the country’s most populous province, Malaita, who complains of central government negligence and also opposes Honiara’s decision to change diplomatic allegiance to China from Taiwan.
Amid fears that the result of Monday’s no-confidence vote could spark more violence, boats have been banned from Honiara port and more than 200 police and soldiers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua – New Guinea were on alert.
The prime minister, now in his fourth term, told lawmakers in parliament that he had done nothing wrong and would not comply with “Taiwan officials’ calls for resignation.”
Blaming the provincial government of Malaita for the riots, Sogavare said that “the call for my resignation and this motion was brought in the context of an illegal coup attempt”.
Taiwan has denied any involvement in the unrest.
Sogavare said his cabinet made the decision to change ties because China was an economic power, adding that it was illegal for provinces to maintain diplomatic relations with other countries.
The Chinese Embassy in Solomon Islands has said that any attempt to undermine bilateral relations between China and Solomon Islands is doomed to failure, adding that relations between China and Solomon Islands will overcome any difficulties.
Earlier, opposition leader Matthew Wale told parliament that Sogavare was “in the service of a foreign power” and accused the prime minister of using Chinese money in a national fund to bolster its political strength before the vote of no confidence.
A Government Gazette notice dated December 2 shows that money has been withdrawn from the National Provident Fund (NDF) on behalf of 22 lawmakers in recent days.
“The Prime Minister depends on NDF money to maintain his political strength. How can he make decisions only in the best interests of Solomon Islands? Said Wale.
Residents of Solomon Islands are angry with inadequate health care, prime land taken by outsiders and logging companies overriding local interests, Wale said.
The looting and violence that erupted on November 24 must be condemned, he said, but “it pales in comparison to the looting happening at the top.”
Malaita has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province, where the national government is based, and she opposed changing Sogavare’s government in 2019 to officially recognize China instead of Taiwan.
Its prime minister, Daniel Suidani, banned Chinese companies from working in Malaita and accepted aid from the United States.
About 1,000 people gathered in the provincial capital of Auki to listen live to the session of parliament, a Suidani political aide told Reuters news agency.
Suidani is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday outlining a referendum for Malaita’s independence, adviser Celsus Talifilu said by telephone.