PM Jacinda Arden says 65 staff members who will join international missions, from Australia, Fiji and Papa New Guinea, are already on the ground.
New Zealand’s government says it will send dozens of peacekeepers to the Solomon Islands following a request for help from the crisis-stricken country after a week of deadly riots.
The move announced on Wednesday follows similar deployments by Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea aimed at restoring calm after peaceful protests calling for the removal of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare turned violent last week in the capital, Honiara.
At least three people are dead in unrest which also reduced a large part of the city to smoldering rubble.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has said an initial force of 15 members of the New Zealand Army and police will be sent to Honiara on Thursday to help stabilize the situation, with another 50 joining them over the weekend. She added that the security forces would work with the Solomons police and some 200 regional peacekeepers already on the ground as part of the Australia-led mission.
“We are deeply concerned about the recent civil unrest and unrest in Honiara, and following yesterday’s request from the Solomon Islands Government, we have moved swiftly to provide urgent assistance to help restore lasting peace and security,” “Ardern said in a statement.
Ardern said the New Zealanders are well equipped to deal with dangerous situations: “Every deployment brings its risks and challenges, but our people have extensive experience in the Pacific region and are among the most competent when it comes to the explosion of conflict, “she said.
Officials in Australia insist the deployment will only last ‘a matter of weeks’ and that the focus is on policing, not intervening in the Solomons’ political situation.
New Zealand also participated in another Australia-led peacekeeping mission in the Solomons from 2003 to 2017.
A restless peace has prevailed in Honiara since Saturday, with residents clean the streets after days of violence in which anti-government crowds tried to storm parliament, as well as set fire to a large part of Honiara’s Chinatown area and tried to burn down Sogavare’s house.
Observers say the protests were fueled by 800,000 poverty, unemployment and rivalry between the islands in the country.
Calm has been restored after Australian troops and police rushed to respond to Sogavare’s desperate plea to Canberra for help, but authorities are still wary of more violence flaring up and aid agencies are voicing concerns about food shortages.
Police have arrested more than 100 people, and on Saturday they said the charred remains of three people were found in a burnt-out store in Chinatown.
Sogavare said the violence caused $ 200 million ($ 25 million) in damage and destroyed 1,000 jobs in an economy already plagued by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
An early estimate of the cost of the riot, released this weekend by the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands, said 56 buildings in the capital had been burned and looted, with many businesses facing a recovery of more than a year in facing.
Sogavare will face a motion of no confidence tabled by the opposition on Monday, which will provide another possible hotspot for unrest.