Solomon Islands handed over water cannon, police arms shipments from China, Australia

Solomon Islands handed over water cannon, police arms shipments from China, Australia


Solomon Islands bolstered the hardware of its police forces with a donation of water cannons from China on Friday, days after receiving weapons from Australia.

The Solomon Islands – a sprawling South Pacific archipelago – have become a focal point in a diplomatic row in which the United States and Australia are trying to limit China’s influence.

Australia and China’s donations to the country’s security forces this week come a year after anti-government protests turned violent in November and left at least three people dead.

At a ceremony in the capital Honiara on Friday, led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, China handed over two water cannon trucks, 30 motorcycles and 20 SUVs to Solomon’s police.

Sogavare said the donated hardware will help police keep the peace in the Solomon Islands as they prepare to host next year’s Pacific Games ahead of the 2024 general election.

“We must serve our people without fear or favor. The security of our country depends on you,” Sogavare told police officers.

Chinese Ambassador Li Ming said his country’s vehicle donation came at the request of the Sogovare government and will “further contribute to the administration of law and order in the Solomon Islands.”

Australia’s Federal Police had also handed over 60 short-barreled rifles and 13 vehicles to Solomon Islands Police on Wednesday – a donation that came after Canberra hosted Sogavare last month to ease diplomatic tensions strained by China’s growing presence.

This sparked criticism from opposition leader Matthew Wale, who found Australia’s arms donation “deeply disturbing”.

“Obviously we have no external threats, so why introduce these high-powered weapons? …Or are we on our way to being militarized again?” Wale told AFP.

“If so…then we arm ourselves against our own citizens.”

The vehicles donated by China cost around $1.7 million, while the weapons and transportation equipment supplied by Australia cost just under $1 million.

The 2019 Honiara riots caused $67 million in damage and left the city’s Chinatown neighborhood in shambles before a brief deployment of peacekeepers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea helped restore order.

The Chinese community has been targeted in part because of the government’s decision to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019, a move that angered some communities in the aid-dependent nation.

More to explorer