BREAKING NEWS!!!! China Town Burnt down:Latest as of today (Wednesday 19/04/06)
China Town up in flames: fire started in the middle of China Town
Fire spreads to claim three buildings in the middle of Chinatown
Fire from the burning at Vavaya Ridge
Looting earlier on in the day. Matteresses, bicycles all assorted goods were taken from the shops within Chinatown.
Live reports that reached us from Honiara stated that there is another twist to the rowdy crowd that demanded the immediate resignation of our new PM, Honourable Snyder Rini. Reports have it that people who gathered at Parliament demanding the immediate resignation of new PM Rini, have damaged several vehicles of MPs who supported the new PM. Several RAMSI police personnels have also been injuried while trying to get the PM out of Parliament. All Chinese shops and businesses around Honiara have been closed in fear of being ransacked by the thugs. However, we are confident that RAMSI's presence in Honiara will calm the situation. A summary of the events are outlined below:
2:53pm (SI time) RAMSI has reportedly being deployed to quell any violent protest. However, reports have indicated that Sir Peter Kenilorea has requested that the newly elected Prime Minister concede to public demand and resign from the position.
Kenilorea was quoted as saying that Solomon Islanders have rejected his election by a public demonstration of swearing in obvious disgust and stoning his car as he left the parliament grounds.
Although RAMSI has the road cleared shouting can still be heard outside the parliament building towards the western end and the protest is said to be gaining wide spread support. Only the strong presence of RAMSI will prevent any violent outbreak.
3:49pm (SI) Chinatown has reportedly been closed and reports strongly suggest that vehicles at the Parliament house at Vavaya Ridge have been burnt. A RAMSI helicopter has been deployed to control the fire.
4:16pm (SI) Newly elected Prime Minister is still holed up at the Parliament building and looting has taken place in some shops in Pt. Cruz.
Crowd has been reportedly dispersed and it is true that three RAMSI vehicles were set on fire. Things at Parliament are tense. It is also true that now, about 5 RAMSI landcruisers have been rolled down the hill and burnt.
4:45pm (SI time) Solomon Telekom Co Ltd has said that work will be suspended until further notice and all employees will be restricted from office premises until the situation improves.
The riot is a result of the crowd not accepting the election of Hon. Snyder Rini as our new PM. They expected to see a new government.
Snyder Rini is leader of the Association of Independent Members (AIM), a partner in the last Government of Sir Allan Kemakeza, leader of the Peoples’ Alliance Party (PAP).
AIM and PAP were in coalition in the last government and the crowd saw the election of the new Prime Minister this morning as a mere change of persons but the government remains the same, according to some members of the crowd.
This is the issue which sparked today’s crowd to behave unexpectedly.
Other dignitaries like Bartholomew Ulufa’alo, Manasseh Sogavare and Job Tausinga attempted to calm down the crowd but without success.
The current Speaker of Parliament, Sir Peter Kenilorea, also tried to explain the democratic process which resulted in the election of Snyder Rini, but to no avail.
5:33pm A mob has marched towards chinatown and are currently destroying property within the township. The crowd is growing by the minute
6:21pm The mob has set a building on fire in the middle of chinatown after almost an hour of looting. RAMSI vehicles have arrived but the fire has posed the biggest threat yet!
Currently, three buildings have already suffered this dire fate. 7:12pm The Governer General comes to the media to offer a message to appeal to the rioting crowd as a second fire starts at the end of Chinatown.
So far, at least eight vehicles were burnt in the grounds of Parliament House, every Chinese store in Point Cruz was looted, and Chinatown being burnt to the ground at 8.30pm this evening.
9.22pm (SI time) From the old Mataniko River bridge end (Vuvula Poultry end) both sides of the main street of Chinatown were fully ablaze, with explosions going off at random. At least 10 buildings were ablaze. There was also a decent wind blowing down the river that was feeding the fire, and blowing it further down the street. A new building was being engulfed every five minutes, and the flames went at least 30 metres into air. From the looks of it, the whole of Chinatown is going to burn down to nothing.
9.43pm (SI) SIBC is reporting that more looting continues to happen around town. The stores opposite Central Market are being looted, and the Tongs refilling station at KGVI is being looted. It seems the mood is infectious in town and any known Chinese owned establishment is fair game. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries so far, and hopefully this will stay as it is.
~10pm (SI) Reports from Johnson Honimae revealed that there is a power black out in the once bustling Chinatown of Honiara as a result of rioters and looters burning shops in that commercial area of the city tonight. Solomon Star, which is located in the Chinatown area will not be published tomorrow as it has also been affected by the blackout, according to Publisher John Lamani. Meanwhile residents of Chinatown and nearby areas caught on the wrong side of the bridge will unfortunately spent tonight in their offices or with neighbours on either side of the old Chinatown Bridge. There are several other roadblocks set up by Police around town.
All Government Members of Parliament are believed to have left the National Parliament House under armed police escort but it is not certain where they have been taken to.
Snyder Rini is still defiantly clinging onto power at an undisclosed location, and this was the result.
12am Reports said that Chinatown has burnt all the way down to the Hot Bread shop, and does not look like slowing down. There is also quite a strong wind blowing, which is fanning the flames and making the fire uncontrollable. Looters are still carrying away piles of goods, with looters seen to be emptying the shops at the new Mataniko River bridge end. Apparently the looters are just throwing goods out onto the street and just letting anyone take them.
7.30am wednesday (19/04/06) It is pouring rain at the moment, which is a good thing. I suppose it will help put out any fires left in Chinatown. Public servants and school children have been told to stay at home today. Chinatown is still burning. Buildings in the Ranandi area have been burnt and more RAMSI vehicles were burnt last night. The Solomon Star will not be published as the area of Chinatown where the offices are have been affected by the power blackouts associated with the rioting.
In other developments, ABC News has reported that Australian troops are on stand-by to be sent to the Solomon Islands after a night of rioting and looting in the capital, Honiara. Eight Australian Federal Police officers, who are in the Solomons as part of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), have been injured in the unrest. One officer has a broken jaw while another is expected to be returned home to Australia for treatment.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has told ABC Radio's AM that Australia is willing to send military back-up if necessary. "If the situation gets to a point where they don't feel there are enough police, then we do have the option of sending in the military," he said. "We have the military on stand-by in Townsville, they can be sent in at very short notice."
News Sources: Joe Inomae (http://joeblog.blog.com), Lynnold Wini (http://www.grafixfarm.hardstaff.com), Alfred Maesulia and Johnson Honimae (Government Communications Unit), Solomonline (http://www.solomonline.com); ABC News Online.
Photos by: Christina-Kuper Wini