Australian police caused Solomons riot

From The Age
Australian police ’caused Solomons riot

April 25, 2006 – 5:34AM

Canberra should compensate the Solomon Islands because Australian police sparked the Honiara riots, a former New Zealand government minister says.

Richard Prebble, a minister in Labour governments of the 1980s and a frequent visitor to the Solomons, said Australian Federal Police officers had erred by firing tear gas at a peaceful demonstration.

“The crowd was outraged and the riot spontaneous,” said the newsletter Mr Prebble publishes for the New Zealand political party ACT, of which he is a former leader.

“Canberra should hold a proper inquiry and then pay, in the Solomon way, compensation.”

There was widespread violence and looting in the Solomons’ capital last week after the surprise election by MPs of Snyder Rini as prime minister, whom some accuse of buying his job with money from Chinese businessmen.

Australia and New Zealand have sent additional soldiers and police to help keep the peace.

Despite most Chinese businesses being destroyed by rioters, Mr Prebble said there was little anti-Chinese sentiment on the islands.

“Most Chinese were born in the Solomons, speak pidgin and are Solomon citizens,” his newsletter said.

Mr Prebble said logging companies keen to continue unsustainable cutting of rainforests were doing the serious bribery.

The Taiwanese government “generously” funded politicians, and government also played a part, he said.

Mr Prebble said the Solomon Islands government bribed MPs to support the prime minister.

“Last election the average bribe was $40,000, eagerly accepted by MPs broke from having overspent on their campaigns.”

He said the legal bribery was the country having a cabinet of 19 from just 50 MPs.

Mr Prebble, who is married to a Solomon Islander, retired as an MP last year.

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