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The Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday after accusing protesters of being “agents of Taiwan” and orchestrating a coup to overthrow his government.
Mr Sogavare survived the vote with 32 legislators supporting him while 15 voted against him, and two abstained, agencies reported.
The no-confidence vote in parliament comes only days after protesters in the Pacific island nation’s capital Honiara looted shops and set buildings ablaze in violence that killed at least three people.
The riots grew from a peaceful protest in the nation’s most populous province Malaita demanding Mr Sogavare’s resignation.
Protesters had been highlighting neglect by the Sogavare government as well as economic problems and concerns about the country’s increasing links with China.
The Solomon Islands switched its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in 2019, a move that did not go down well with leaders in Malaita.
The protests turned violent on 24 November in the capital Honiara after rioters targeted the city’s Chinatown and downtown precincts. Police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets at protesters.
On Monday, opposition leader Matthew Wale told parliament that he was bringing in the no-confidence motion because a political solution was urgently needed.
“I am conscious that what we say in ventilating this motion may further add to what are already high levels of anger in certain quarters of our society,” he said.
He also accused Mr Sogavare of being “in the service of a foreign power,” referring to China and alleged that the leader had used money from China in a national fund to prop up his political strength before the no-confidence vote.
After the opposition’s motion was defeated, Mr Sogavare said he would not submit to “calls to resign by Taiwan’s agents”, reported Reuters.
“The call for me to resign and this motion was made against the backdrop of an illegal attempted coup,” he added.
The central government in the Solomon Islands as well as the provincial government of Malaita have locked horns over the nation dropping diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Mr Sogavare, who has intermittently been in power since 2000, earlier said that he had switched ties to China as the country was an economic powerhouse.
The Malaita regional government has opposed links with China and barred Chinese companies.
In addition it has also agreed to accept aid directly from the US government and not through the central government, which in turn has angered Mr Sogavare.
On Tuesday, Malaita premier Daniel Suidani, is expected to make an announcement outlining a referendum for independence for Malaita.
Taiwan has rejected any involvement in the protests.