The prime minister of one of the Solomon Islands’ most populous provinces and one of the most outspoken critics of the country’s relations with China has been ousted in a vote of no confidence.
The move sparked protests in Auki, Malaita province, on Tuesday. Police confirmed to The Guardian that they had used tear gas to disperse protesters and said a police officer was injured, but said the situation was now under control.
Malaita Provincial Prime Minister Daniel Suidani has been one of the most outspoken critics of the country’s relationship with China. He objected to the national government’s signing of a controversial security pact with China last year, as well as the decision to cut ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 2019.
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He faced a vote of no confidence at the provincial assembly on Tuesday. The motion introduced in the assembly alleged that Suidani had illegally collected money from a Chinese-owned mining company, improperly used government finances to pay the wages of his personal guards, and of financial mismanagement.
The vote passed unanimously after the prime minister and his executive left the provincial assembly meeting and boycotted the motion.
National Minister of Provincial Government Rollen Seleso said Suidani’s government had tried unsuccessfully to object to the legality of the vote of no confidence, but the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the provincial speaker and declared that the vote could go ahead .
“They went ahead with the motion that now led to the defeat of the incumbent Suidani,” Seleso said. “After the defeat, the nominations of the candidates should last 48 hours and the speaker of the provincial assembly should convene a full assembly this week to elect the new prime minister.”
Suidani did not speak to the press after the vote and was not immediately available for comment. Earlier this week, however, he issued a statement calling the vote of no confidence a “blatant disregard for the law” and “attacks against the people of Malaita are being played out in broad daylight”.
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Tensions between the provincial government in Malaita and the national government in Honiara have run high in recent years. In November 2021, there were protests in Honiara that led to the deaths of three people.
Many of the demonstrators were from Malaita and said they felt overlooked by the government in Guadalcanal province. At the time of the riots, Suidani said Sogavare had “elevated the interest of foreigners above that of the Solomon Islands” and should resign.