21 Apr 2006

Solomons opposition claims public support for planned Rini ouster

3:48 pm on 21 April 2006

The Solomon Islands opposition says it has public backing for its planned motion of no-confidence to unseat new Prime Minister Snyder Rini, who was sworn in yesterday.

The opposition says it has been joined by MPs Patrick Vahoe and Trevor Olavae who had been among the 27 members to vote for Mr Rini on Tuesday.

That election outcome was decried by hundreds of demonstrators and was followed by two days of rioting.

The parliament will sit on Monday and a member of the newly formed opposition party, Patteson Oti, says they plan to put a motion of no-confidence before the house on Wednesday or Thursday.

Mr Oti says while people call for Mr Rini's resignation, the only constitutional avenue to remove him is through a vote of no confidence.

"I think the public is behind us in terms of the acceptability of Snyder Rini as the prime minister. I cannot speak on the side of the government - I can vouch confidently for the present groups in the opposition, that is we have 25 MPs."

Patteson Oti says one more defection from the Rini camp is needed for the vote to succeed.

Australia is sending an extra 110 troops to the Solomon Islands.

It has already sent 180 troops and police this week to help quell riots and looting in the capital Honiara, sparked by the election of Snyder Rini as prime minister.

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the decision to send extra troops comes after an overnight request from the regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon islands.

It's far more desirable to deter troublemakers in a situation like this than to fight a pitched battle. I think if there is overwhelming force they won't try trouble in the first place.

John Howard says the situation in Honiara is still considered dangerous.

New Zealand has sent 55 police officers and soldiers.

Solomon Islands police commissioner Shane Castles has fended off suggestions of an intelligence breakdown before the rioting in Honiara.

Commissioner Castles says the level of violence was unprecedented and there was no warning it would explode as it did.

He estimates the damage bill would be in the tens of millions of Solomon Island dollars.

Life in Honiara is beginning to return to normal, with most banks and shops unaffected by the looting and fires reopening.

The city will again be placed under lockdown for a third night tonight, and the sale of alcohol is still banned in the city limits.

Commissioner Castles said authorities would now begin combing through the devastated Chinatown and Pacific Casino hotel for clues and to ensure no bodies were buried beneath the rubble.