When Matthew Quan and his family were warned mobs were descending on Honiara's Chinatown they frantically called police and anyone else in a position of power.

"I was here in the office," Quan recalled. "Everyone kept telling us, 'No no, everything is okay, don't worry about it, it won't happen'. We had three or four warnings from a few friends. But it basically just fell on deaf ears."

Chinatown was looted and almost completely burnt down in the 2006 riot. Staff living at the back of the Quan family store, founded in 1924 when the family first arrived from southern China, stood out front to guard it.

Most other buildings were destroyed. Speaking to the Herald as children play tag and women shop with umbrellas up to the blazing sun, Quan points to the roof where staff chucked buckets of water on the spreading fire.

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Where we are standing a building once stood, and the two-storey buildings lining the opposite side of the street all rose from the ashes of 2006 - this time made with concrete.

QQQ Holdings is around the corner from the hotel where media accompanying Police Minister and Deputy PM Paula Bennett, Police Commissioner Mike Bush and other officials are staying, in town to mark the end of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (Ramsi).

Chinese merchant Matthew Quan, who feared he would lose his family business in Honiara during riots in 2006. Photograph: Nicholas Jones
Chinese merchant Matthew Quan, who feared he would lose his family business in Honiara during riots in 2006. Photograph: Nicholas Jones

The Solomons was close to collapse during civil and ethnic conflict between 1998 and 2003 that saw more than 100 people killed and around 40,000 driven from their homes.

People from the poorly-developed island of Malaita moved to Guadalcanal Island and the capital Honiara in search of work. Militias evicted new arrivals, and rival gangs formed to defend them. Schools closed and the then-Finance Minister signed cheques at gunpoint.

The Solomons Government asked for help, and in July 2003 an Australian-led force of about 2200 military and police officers arrived. The 2006 riots led to the establishment of a commission of inquiry and a boost in forces from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

The burnt-out remains of Chinatown in Honiara after it was set on fire by rioters and looters in 2006. Photograph by NZPA/Wayne Draught
The burnt-out remains of Chinatown in Honiara after it was set on fire by rioters and looters in 2006. Photograph by NZPA/Wayne Draught

The peacekeeping mission scaled down to police and civil support-only in 2013, and ends this week - almost 14 years after Australian warships appeared off the coast at the head of the largest expeditionary force in the Pacific since WWII.

Now the harbour is dotted with container ships. Billboards welcoming visitors to the celebrations sit alongside the permanent messages of "NO smoking, NO betel nut".

Yesterday was declared a holiday. An editorial in the Solomon Star declared Ramsi a success, but the front page story was a warning from the Opposition the country was sliding towards bankruptcy, in part because of corruption and cronyism.

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At a rugby field cultural groups from each province created a festival atmosphere while performing for Bennett and other dignitaries, who arrived to a background of drums and singing.

Solomon Islands police at a ceremony to mark the end of the RAMSI agreement. Photograph by Nicholas Jones
Solomon Islands police at a ceremony to mark the end of the RAMSI agreement. Photograph by Nicholas Jones

One speaker, almost drowned out in the honking of Honiara's rush hour, told the crowd children were now named Ramsi, such was the gratitude for an operation. A squealing pig was then carried in and laid at the feet of Bennett and company.

When then-Prime Minister John Key visited Honiara in 2009 a helicopter carrying armed military hovered above his convoy.

Things are more relaxed now, although this year the Government armed personal protection and response teams - entrusting police with guns for the first time since the tensions, when some officers participated in violence and others allowed militants to access the police arsenal.

That's caused some unease. Honiara local Josephine Teakini, a member of the women's group Vois Blong Mere, said her group was firmly opposed to rearmament being widened.

"To see them armed in the streets, walking around. That would be something we wouldn't want to encourage. I think the rearmament so far is enough."

Teakini said there are still large numbers of firearms unaccounted for, and institutions needed to be strengthened to bring about lasting peace.

Another ongoing challenge is the high rates of domestic violence, which Bennett said was "absolutely horrific".

"When you are looking at over 60 per cent of partnered women having experienced domestic violence, it feels like there's a massive culture change that has to happen," Bennett said.

"I would like to see more women MPs ... I'm thrilled that they now have 50 per cent women on the police force. Those sorts of things genuinely make a difference."

Asked if the end of Ramsi was a budgetary decision for Australia, Bennett said that wasn't her understanding and the Solomons Government had been clear the timing of the draw-down was its decision.

Quan, chair of the Solomon Islands Chinese Association and who speaks with an Aussie accent after university study in Sydney, said many of the country's 3000-plus Chinese community were nervous about the end of Ramsi.

He's been assured a security arrangement signed with Australia, who led Ramsi at a cost of about $3 billion and four lives, will let them send in the big guns in a crisis. But having faced the mob, he's sceptical those in power will ask for help quickly enough.

"Because we've been here for such a long time we understand or have seen how certain things have happened. We're probably not as convinced. But at the same time, the analogy is the child leaving the parents - it's got to happen sometime or another."

New Zealand and the Solomons

• Police Minister and Deputy PM Paula Bennett is in Honiara to mark the end of the Ramsi peacekeeping mission, which started 14 years ago after civil conflict pushed the country towards collapse.

• NZ has contributed about $150m to the operation, with more than 1000 Defence Force personnel and 800 police serving in the Solomons over the past 14 years. Most of the 16 police currently there will leave today.