By Robert Iroga in Honiara
Opposition leader Matthew Wale has rejected the prime minister’s claim that he and other opposition members were behind last week’s rioting in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara.
Wale claimed that the false statements were aimed towards diverting the public’s attention from Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s “own failures” in dealing with the crisis.
Wale said Sogavare “must recognise his role in this tragedy”.
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“These recent events are the culmination of the prime minister’s leadership style which stretch back throughout his tenure,” the opposition leader said.
Wale said he had repeatedly made calls for the prime minister to initiate dialogue with the restless province Malaita.
“I have stated on several occasions the need for the prime minister to have constructive dialogue with Malaita,” he said.
“In light of the deteriorating relationship between the province and national government, I specifically urged the prime minister last year to lead a delegation to Malaita to deal with their issues’.
Sogavare had failed to do this.
“His negative attitude to deal with these issues is also reflected in the recent events when he ran away and refused to engage in dialogue with the people who marched to Parliament.”
Reflecting on the damage from the rioting, Wale said that what had happened in the last few days was truly a tragedy.
“As a leader, I lament with the people who have suffered losses and condemn what has happened.
“Because of the large damage that has occurred these past days, the public’s impulse to blame someone is understandable.”
The Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) estimated the loss to the local economy at $US28 million. Three people died in the Chinatown fires.
The prime minister must not take advantage of this and divert the public’s attention from his actions and omissions which had directly contributed to the problem, Wale said.
The opposition leader called on the prime minister to “stop blaming others” for his own failures and “take responsibility as a true leader”.
RNZ Pacific reports that the New Zealand government is deploying dozens of Defence Force and police personnel to Honiara in the coming days “to help restore peace and stability”
Since rioting and looting started in the Solomon Islands last week, Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have sent about 200 troops and police to help keep the peace there.
Robert Iroga is editor of SBM Online. Republished with permission.