Solomon Islands: protest over education cuts and MP’s fraud probe continues

Protests over education cuts and fraud investigation into MP Dom Sipinovitch continue in Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands public workers have been told to stay at home amid continuing violent protests over education cuts and a fraud investigation into MP Dom Sipinovitch.

At least two people have been injured in Wednesday’s clashes in Honiara, including a policeman who sustained eye injuries and was taken to hospital.

There have been street clashes and damaged buildings and streets around Parliament, which have seen flying objects and rocks thrown at police.

Protesters march in Honiara, Solomon Islands, amid continuing violent protests. Photograph: AAP/via Reuters

At least four people were arrested on Wednesday in an incident at the police station in Wawa, also in Honiara, with about 100 people protesting peacefully there.

Earlier on Wednesday, more than 40 police officers were injured after protesters assaulted them at a swearing-in ceremony for Mr Sipinovitch, the head of the national assembly.

Political leaders blame the police for the violence in which at least five people were injured, while at least 80 police vehicles were damaged.

A school bus was set on fire in Honiara, with 15 teachers on board injured by glass shards. A local news report said some of the bus occupants “were taken to hospital”.

Sipinovitch, who is the MP for Makira and interim finance minister, has been accused of fraud and other questionable financial dealings in the Senate, and by cabinet colleague and deputy prime minister Fred Fono.

The department of education in Solomon Islands announced earlier this month that courses offered to students in Honiara would have to be offered via satellite rather than a direct flight to Honiara.

The announcement, which sparked protests in Honiara and its suburbs, followed claims that the education system in Solomon Islands is under-funded.

Protesters in Honiara, Solomon Islands, organise their own event to get Sipinovitch to attend a parliamentary session. Photograph: AAP/via Reuters

The decision to give priority to homestay students rather than boarding students comes after 16-year-old Kelly Maeva refused to move to a boarding school after the 2016 tuition increase to $1,200.

Earlier this year Mr Sipinovitch defended his role as parliament’s sole MP over the claims made by Mr Fono, but was reportedly relieved of his parliamentary duties and ruled out of the opposition benches at Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting.

Fono said on Tuesday he was considering a court challenge to Mr Sipinovitch’s rule at the national parliament.

Mr Sipinovitch’s office declined to comment.

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