HONIARA City was last night facing a night of terror as protestors vented their anger, demanding Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign immediately.
In a day which slowly turned violent, one female police officer was injured, a leaf hut next to Parliament House was torched, along with the Kukum Traffic Police Station.
Shops at the Kukum commercial area were also broken into late afternoon as protestors forced themselves in, helping themselves to whatever they could lay their hands on.
As the situation unfolded, Prime Minister Sogavare was forced to cancel a planned news conference on Wednesday.
As one resident puts, Honiara residents are in for a night of terror.
Wednesday 24TH November was no different from any other day. It began as usual as any other day for Honiarasiders.
The morning was quiet and peaceful. A handful of unsuspecting and innocent kids was out early apparently on their way to school.
Others who got the wind of what was to come stayed home. They were apparently warned by their teachers the day before to stay home as there could be protests which could turn violent.
By 8am it appeared something was in the air as people started milling around the grounds of the Honiara City Council headquarters. Shops remained closed as people from all walks of life started arriving by buses from all corners of town.
An hour or so later, another crowd was gathering at the bottom of the hill where the Parliament House sits atop.
News of the arrival of a delegation from Malaita seemed to have jostled the crowd into action. They were carrying two flags – the Malaita Provincial flag and the Israeli flag as they made their way from Point Cruz wharf. They also brought with them a large live eagle
By early afternoon, the crowd at the foot of the Parliament hill had forced their way into the Parliament grounds after breaking through the fenced area. Despite police presence, it was a walkover because of the sheer number of the growing crowd.
Two female police officers were reportedly injured by the stone-throwing crowd. It was later confirmed that one of the two officers was rushed to the emergency ward of the National Referral Hospital (NRH). The extent of her injuries was not immediately known.
Police vehicles were also stoned
As the protestors reached the top of the hill at Parliament House, they set fire to the leaf hut right next to the Parliament building. Police – believed to be members of the Police Response Team (PRT) – used teargas to disburse the crowd – adding fuel to what was already a tense and volatile situation.
The arrival of the crowd sent Parliamentary staff fleeing for their safety.
Police have also reportedly stopped one commercial ship from berthing at Point Cruz yesterday afternoon. They feared the ship which arrived from Auki, could be bringing additional protestors. The ship was moored at sea off the wharf.
The scene in Honiara yesterday was reminiscent of the ethnic tension days.
It is said the protestors – not only from Malaita Province but other provinces as well – are demanding Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare step down immediately.
Mr. Sogavare cancelled a planned news conference yesterday, apparently for his safety. He was to have held a news conference at 2pm.
Calls to the Office of the Prime Minister went unanswered.
By late afternoon, the angry crowd had moved east to the Kukum area, where the Police Traffic Station was set alight. It is unclear whether anyone was injured.
There was complaint too against police firing teargas at the retreating protestors.
At the St Barnabas Cathedral area near Lawson Tama, a Church official said the compound and residences of the Cathedral were fired on with teargas.
The only people who were there at the time were Sunday school children and teachers. The protestors were running along the main road, a spokesman said.
“What the police did showed the unprofessionalism within the police force. Adults and children in the Compound and residences were badly affected by the teargas,” he said.
At the Kukum commercial area, shops were broken into as protestors moved into shops and began helping themselves to what they could lay their hands on.
As the situation stands, it could only get worse, prompting the MP for Savo/Russell to appeal to his Constituency people to “stay away from the protest.”
“My Gud pipol lo Savo Russells plis stay away from crowds. No joinim olgeta,” Minister Dickson Mua said in a social media post.
Literally translated, “My good people of Savo Russells please stay away from the crowds. Stay away from them.”
Late yesterday evening, a Police Conference was held at Rove, where the deputy Police Commissioner, Juanita Matanga warned Honiara residents to stay out of the illegal protest and rioting.