Solomon Islands Police Disperse Angry Mob With Teargas

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Initiated by disgruntled flood victims, hundreds of rioters loot, burn shops

By Daniel Namosuaia

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, May 18, 2014) – Solomon Islands police fired more than 50 rounds of tear gas as they launched an all out battle against a large mob that looted and burned down shops in the King George area, Friday night.

The trouble was initiated by a group of disgruntled flood victims who were reportedly unhappy with the rehabilitation package they received from the government.

It came hours after the victims left the Solomon Islands National University’s pavilion where they occupied since early April.

Eye-witnesses said the group broke into the shop opposite King George Sixth School (formerly known as Uncle Alick) around 7pm, looted it before setting it on fire.

The blaze extended to the adjourning shops, reducing the building to rumbles.

Before that, the group cut down every palm tree along the Prince Philip highway from King George to Panatina.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International reported that "A group for victims of the recent flooding disaster in Solomon Islands' Guadalcanal province have distanced themselves from claims that victims were behind rioting and looting in east Honiara. ... Ground reports say some local people are frustrated at the slow delivery of relief assistance following last month's. ... However, Redley Raramo, the President of a national advocacy organisation, the Forum Solomon Islands International, says opportunists appear to have been involved in the trouble."]

Opportunists, including women and children, reportedly joined in the looting before the building was set on fire at around 8.30pm.

An early attempt by the regular police to disperse the crowd, believed to be in their hundreds, failed after they came under attack from the mob.

It was hours later that the specially-trained Police Response Team (PRT) arrived at the scene, where they also faced stiff opposition from the crowd.

But with help of their colleagues from RAMSI’s Participating Police Force (PPF) and the use of tear gas, they were able to send the mob into all directions in the night.

Residents within the vicinity of the scene reportedly suffered badly from the tear gas police fired during the night.

Two Sunday Star reporters, who were closely following on from behind the PRT as they took on the mob, witnessed a skilled forced that was well trained for the occasion.

They came under attack as the mob threw rocks and other objects at them as they advance eastward towards the crowd.

A few of them were hit by rocks but there were no major injuries.

The Sunday Star understands a number of people were arrested and were now in police custody.

The situation has forced Chinese shop owners in Honiara to close their business most of yesterday and employed private guards to secure their buildings last night.

Police last night issued a statement saying they have increased their patrol in light of the lawlessness.

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