Fijians In Honiara Safe As Violence Erupts

“I have been checking on Fijians and so far, they are all safe. Ruby Lee, a Fijian woman married to a Solomon islander, lost her shop as looters rioted and burned her business.
26 Nov 2021 09:40
Fijians In Honiara Safe As Violence Erupts

Fijians living in the Solomon Islands are safe for now as riots, looting and burning continues in the capital Honiara.

Fiji’s honorary consul in the Solomon Islands, Atueta Balekana, said an evacuation plan has been put in place for Fijians, should the violence escalate.

The rioting and looting started on Wednesday from what began as a peaceful protest by Malaitans to demand the country’s Prime Minister, Mannaseh Sogovare, step down.

Since then, schools have been burnt, shops looted and Police Posts set alight as the riots continued. A 36-hour lockdown was in place and scheduled to end at 7am today. However rioters were still out on the streets.

Mr Balekana said he had been in contact with Fijians in Honiara and has briefed them about an evacuation plan should the need arise.

“I have arranged for speed boats, which will be able to take Fijians out of the capital, to other islands where there are no riots,” Mr Balekana said.

“I have been checking on Fijians and so far, they are all safe. Ruby Lee, a Fijian woman married to a Solomon islander, lost her shop as looters rioted and burned her business.

“She is safe. I am also in touch with the Fijian Government.”

Mr Balekana aims to bring Fijians to his house, which is situated outside of Honiara.

He said roads were blocked as a result of the riots and the best way to reach his place would be with the use of speed boats.

A large Fijian community live in the Solomon Islands. Most of them employed at regional bodies or private firms including hotels.

Mr Balekana was born in the Solomon Islands. His parents went there in the 1970s and were authors of the nation’s anthem.

He said there was no need to panic.

Former Fiji Television chief executive, Mesake Nawari, is employed at the Forum Fisheries Agency.

He said he was safe and all Fijians he had been in contact with were safe as well.


Pacific Crown head of security

Sisa Tamaninuve, 56, is the head of security at the Pacific Crown Hotel in Honiara.

The former military man is no stranger to such scenarios. He has spent eight years with a private security contractor in Iraq.

For the past four years, he has been employed as the head of security for the hotel. His son, Ratu Badogo Samutanavanua, works with him as well.

“This hotel is a quarantine facility as well. We have just evacuated all guests to another hotel out of Honiara and we are standing guard protecting the hotel,” Mr Tamaninuve said.

“Seeing the riots reminded me a little of Iraq. I am used to the action and I am ready should something happens, but I hope it does not.”

Mr Tamaninuve came to the Solomon Islands with his wife, Poli Tamaninuve, who is a lecturer with the University of the South Pacific.


The stuck pilot

Salote Vuniwaqa Mataitini flew into Honiara yesterday morning and now she is trapped in the Solomon Islands capital.

She was staying at the Honiara Hotel, which is located in Chinatown; the place where rioting is taking place.

She could see the rioters as they looted shops.

Ms Mataitini is a pilot for Air Kiribati and was on a trip to return a twin otter plane, which was leased from Solomon Air.

The landing was safe, but protesters lined up the streets as Ms Mataitini and her co-pilot made their way to the hotel.

“The hotel is in the thick of it. I can see Police officers standing guard. It is supposed to be a lockdown, but they are out on the streets,” she said.

“We saw the Police shoot tear gas and use rubber bullets on the crowd. I am not scared, but our hotel is in the centre of the action, so to speak.

“The hotel is heavily guarded by security officers. The Police are outside on the streets, but they are outnumbered by the protesters and rioters.”

Ms Mataitini hails from Lomanikoro in Rewa and has maternal links to Somosomo in Taveuni. She flew more than 24 hours from Kiribati to the Solomon Islands.

She said the Solomon Island Parliament was less than three kilometres away and she could see smoke coming from the buildings.

“It was quiet in the morning for a while, but towards the afternoon things have gotten worse towards the afternoon.”




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