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Solomons businesses close amid fears of further riots in Honiara

Tuesday May 20, 2014 - 14:56 EST

Fears of further riots in Solomon Islands' capital, Honiara, has led to most businesses closing their doors on Monday.

At least four buildings were reportedly looted and torched on Friday and there were further disturbances again on Saturday, leading to at least five arrests.

Riot police are again patrolling the streets after the city returned to calm on Sunday.

According to reports, a crowd of more than 400 people started looting in an area near the King George VI High School in eastern Honiara on Friday night.

Police say most of the rioters were people affected by last month's flood disaster, who are unhappy with the government's relief program.



But Barnabas Hanson, the interim chair of the Joint Civil Society Groups and Concerned Citizens, says that's not true.

"I have spoken to the chairman of the flood victims' interim taskforce and he's confirmed to me that the victims are remaining in the camps," he told

"They have been advised not to participate or to join any groups that would like to engage in unlawful activity."

Matthew Quan, from the Chinese Association of Solomon Islands, says rumours have been circulating that there could be more riots, which prompted him to close his shop in Chinatown for several hours.

He told Pacific Beat that businesses have also closed their doors as a precaution against possible rioting.

"What I've heard is down in Honiara all the shops are closed, including all the banks and offices as well.

"In Chinatown, we received word... and everyone proceeded to close their doors - including ourselves."

Mr Quan says police responded promptly after he reported his concerns to them just before 1:00pm local time and the situation appears to have eased.

Meanwhile, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs has warned Australians in Honiara to exercise a high degree of caution, avoid protests or large gatherings and minimise travel at night.

It says further civil unrest is possible over the next few days.

Six weeks ago, Honiara and the eastern plains of the island of Guadalcanal were devastated by .

Between 50,000 and 60,000 people - half the island's population - were left homeless.

More than 4,000 people remain in temporary evacuation centres. Some have accused the Solomon Islands Government of restricting relief supplies to encourage people to return to their homes.


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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