Philips elected new Solomons PM

Last updated 14:34 25/08/2010
Danny Philip
IN POWER: Reform and Democratic Party leader Danny Philip has been named the new Solomon Islands prime minister.

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Veteran politician Danny Philip was elected Solomon Islands' new prime minister Wednesday as security forces patrolled streets in the capital to prevent a repeat of violence that engulfed the city the last time a leader was chosen.

The nation's 50 lawmakers had been negotiating intensely over the past two weeks to determine who would form a coalition government and Philip, head of the Reform Democratic Party, ultimately beat rival candidate Steve Abana by 26 votes to 23 with one spoiled ballot.

Philip, 57, is expected to announce his new cabinet within days.

"My government is determined for a common purpose for peace and prosperity," he said, adding that "violence that has marred the country should now be water under the bridge."

A strong police and army presence maintained calm in the capital, Honiara, where in 2006 thousands rioted. At the time, voters outraged by the election of new premier Snyder Rini torched the Chinatown area of the city, burned down scores of Chinese-owned businesses and forced thousands of ethnic Chinese Solomon Islands citizens to flee the country.

Ahead of Wednesday's vote, police also imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol.

The Aug. 4 elections for the nation's 50-seat Parliament were hailed as generally peaceful although there were minor riots, looting and burning of a ballot box in one province.

Troops from the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands also were on full alert.

The 2003 deployment of RAMSI to the Pacific island nation restored law and order after years of ethnic tension and fighting in which at least 200 died and 20,000 were displaced.

Philip said he will not be asking the mission to leave the country - a policy announced by some lawmakers.

"I have no intention to remove RAMSI, but there needs to be changes to the mission to make it more meaningful to Solomon Islands," he said.

The nation of 600,000 people is scattered across 992 small islands in the central Pacific. Solomon Islanders mostly live on subsistence agriculture and fishing.

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- AP

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