On Thursday night, the Solomon Islands Government began an indefinite shutdown of public services following violent protests, with riots and looting reportedly happening as the government urged workers to stay at home. The timing of the closures could not be worse for the nation, which will receive around $250 million in aid and assistance from outside countries from January to June. The government shutdown and violent protests came after riots over a controversial water privatization deal with Australia and New Zealand.
The Solomon Islands’ government had announced that it was withdrawing its concession to manage the water supply from the government for the district of Temotu, the first time such a move had happened in the Pacific country. Temotu is a region in the south-east of the Solomons, and is heavily populated by women and children. The government leased the water system and assets from the Solomons Water Trust to Australia and New Zealand. However, when the Solomon Islands Water and Sewerage Board bid for the concession to run the system, it declined the offer and ended up in bankruptcy. Prime Minister Danny Philip said on Thursday that, following the riots, the government decided to review its concession to the water sector, but without publicly disclosing the reasons.
The riots have been the latest in an ongoing cycle of unrest since October 15, when the government attempted to replace a commissioners of the Solomon Islands Police Force. Police were fired on during the protests, and a bystander died. Almost all of the government’s cabinet ministers and former ministers have reportedly resigned in protest over the water concession. Members of parliament have also staged another walkout to protest the government’s handling of the riots and the water issue.
#SolomonIslands Police have declared a state of emergency in four provinces following two days of violent protests, vandalism and looting.
The police response was criticized by opposition lawmakers. pic.twitter.com/8veyfyKVgR — Solomon Islands News (@SolomonIslandsNews) December 13, 2018
The prime minister, however, defends the decision to shut down services and could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The prime minister’s decision to enforce a full government shutdown could further exacerbate the situation as it leaves the security forces in the hands of the public. SOURCE: BBC