20 Apr 2006

Australian PM says troops have sobering effect on Solomons capital

5:34 pm on 20 April 2006

The Australian prime minister, John Howard, says the presence of additional Australian troops and police has had a sobering effect on the situation in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara,.

The city has seen unprecedented riots after parliament elected Snyder Rini as the new prime minister.

He is yet to be sworn in and announce his government.

Mr Howard says while the situation in the capital was better, life has not yet returned to normal.

His comments follow last night's arrival of Australian reinforcements in the city.

The New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, says this has freed up New Zealand troops used to guard the main prison.

"The platoon that we have there has now been moved from its prison duties with the Australian troops moving in to do that because it was judged that our troops have better knowledge of Honiara right now because they have been on the ground for some time."

A government advisor in Honiara, Johnson Honimae, says the unrest has eased.

The situation on the streets in Honaira is calmer than what it was yesterday. This is the result of the curfew that was imposed last night. The presence of more Australian defence personnel and more police, and more police are arriving from New Zealand. The streets are calmer and some services are open.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has called upon Solomon Islanders to renew their commitment to peace, in response to this week's rioting and looting in Honiara.

The Forum Secretary General, Greg Urwin, says the Forum is deeply concerned about the destruction of property and injury to law enforcement personnel.

Mr Urwin he says it would be tragedy to allow the progress done by the RAMSI mission to be undone.

He says the recent elections in the country were declared free and fair by international observers including the Forum's own, which he says is a testimony to the commitment by Solomon Islanders to uphold democracy and a major achievement for a country that has gone through so much.