Defiant Sogavare vows he will not resign in wake of riots

Honiara's Chinatown in ruins
Honiara's Chinatown in ruins - three people found dead in a burnt out building. Image: Robert Iroga/SBM Online

By Robert Iroga in Honiara

A defiant Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has vowed tonight that he will not resign and will defend Solomon Islands democracy with his life.

After two-days of looting with Honiara’s Chinatown in ruins and calls for him to step down, Sogavare declared he was not resigning.

“If I am removed as Prime Minister, it will be on the floor of Parliament,” he said.

“I have faith and respect in our democratic process, and I will defend it with my life. I say this with deepest conviction.

“Our people need to and must understand that our actions in defending democracy is not merely a lip service. It is conviction in the principles and values that underpins our democracy and all democracies around the world.”

Sogavare said in a radio broadcast to the nation the past 36 hours had seen the country, especially, Honiara brought to its knees.

“I have been asked to step down and while I acknowledge that call I must also respect our democracy. I am elected as the Prime Minister of our beloved country by 35 members of Parliament who represent their people.

Politicians’ ‘hunger for power’
“The call for me to step down is premised on the hunger for power by certain politicians who do not have any respect for the principles of democracy and due process,” he said.

Sogavare said that in 2006 a precedent had been set when the then Prime Minister was asked to resign after a riot in Honiara.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare … “If I am to step down, what message would that send to our people, children and generations to come?” Image: SIBC

“That event is the precedent for our current situation. If I am to step down, what message would that send to our people, children and generations to come?” he asked.

“Some of us are of the opinion that if I step down the protests and riots will stop. This is the easiest decision to make.

“However, the effect of this decision is what weighs heavy in my heart. Are we saying to our young children and youths that whenever we are not happy with those in authority we take the laws into our own hands?

“If we do this, it is a very dangerous message to our people and future generations.

“We are effectively saying to our children, take the law into your hands if [and] whenever you are not happy. This must never be the message we send nor the conviction we instill in our citizens if we are to progress as a peaceful democracy.”

‘Return to your homes’
Sogavare said in his appeal: “I call on all our people to please return to your homes. Our city has already been ransacked with properties burnt to the ground. It will take a lot of effort and money to rebuild it.

“I appeal to you all to respect our city, public and private properties and the safety of innocent civilians.

“Destruction, looting and violence is not how we address our grievances but instead through dialogue and consultation which the government has been advancing despite misinformation being circulated by certain individuals and leaders who have no regard for the collateral and irreversible damage caused by such unwarranted actions,” he said.

Sogavare asked the the churches to pray for the country and people.

Sogavare also urged all ministers and members of Parliament to “defend our democracy”.

He said the government had not been idle with its efforts to protect the country from covid-19, sustain the economy and progress crucial reforms in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

Regional support
“I have been in contact with the government of Australia and Papua New Guinea seeking their assistance to assist our country which is forthcoming. We cannot allow our country, people and our future to be held at ransom by very few people representing their own narrow interests,” he said.

“I am extremely saddened that people have been misled by politicians for their own agenda. Our unsuspecting people have continuously been misled and are victims in this sad and unfortunate situation.

“I do not blame the people who are protesting and rioting, they are citizens of our country, and unfortunately they have been used by certain politicians and individuals to further their own selfish and narrow agendas.”

Robert Iroga is editor of Solomon Business Magazine. This article is republished with permission.

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