Solomon Islands


Solomon Islands
Solomon Islander.
1. an archipelago in the W Pacific Ocean, E of New Guinea; important World War II battles; politically divided between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
2. an independent country comprising the larger, SE part of this archipelago: a former British protectorate; gained independence in 1978. 426,855; 11,458 sq. mi. (29,676 sq. km). Cap.: Honiara (on Guadalcanal).

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Solomon Islands

Introduction Solomon Islands
Background: The UK established a protectorate over the Solomon Islands in the 1890s. Some of the most bitter fighting of World War II occurred on these islands. Self-government was achieved in 1976 and independence two years later. Ethnic violence, government malfeasance, and endemic crime have undermined stability and civil society. Geography Solomon Islands -
Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Papua New Guinea
Geographic coordinates: 8 00 S, 159 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 28,450 sq km water: 910 sq km land: 27,540 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 5,313 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines territorial sea: 12 NM exclusive economic zone: 200 NM continental shelf: 200 NM
Climate: tropical monsoon; few extremes of temperature and weather
Terrain: mostly rugged mountains with some low coral atolls
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Mount Makarakomburu 2,447 m
Natural resources: fish, forests, gold, bauxite, phosphates, lead, zinc, nickel
Land use: arable land: 1.5% permanent crops: 0.64% other: 97.86% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons, but rarely destructive; geologically active region with frequent earth tremors; volcanic activity Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; many of the surrounding coral reefs are dead or dying Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: strategic location on sea routes between the South Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Sea, and the Coral Sea People Solomon Islands
Population: 494,786 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 43.4% (male 109,339; female 105,170) 15-64 years: 53.5% (male 134,125; female 130,804) 65 years and over: 3.1% (male 7,467; female 7,881) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.91% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 33.26 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.19 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/ female total population: 1.03 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 23.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.82 years female: 74.39 years (2002 est.) male: 69.38 years
Total fertility rate: 4.5 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA% HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Solomon Islander(s) adjective: Solomon Islander
Ethnic groups: Melanesian 93%, Polynesian 4%, Micronesian 1.5%, European 0.8%, Chinese 0.3%, other 0.4%
Religions: Anglican 45%, Roman Catholic 18%, United (Methodist/Presbyterian) 12%, Baptist 9%, Seventh-Day Adventist 7%, other Protestant 5%, indigenous beliefs 4%
Languages: Melanesian pidgin in much of the country is lingua franca; English is official but spoken by only 1%-2% of the population note: 120 indigenous languages
Literacy: definition: NA total population: NA% male: NA% female: NA% Government Solomon Islands
Country name: conventional long form: none conventional short form: Solomon Islands former: British Solomon Islands
Government type: parliamentary democracy tending toward anarchy
Capital: Honiara Administrative divisions: 9 provinces and 1 capital territory*; Central, Choiseul (Lauru), Guadalcanal, Honiara*, Isabel, Makira, Malaita, Rennell/ Bellona, Temotu, Western
Independence: 7 July 1978 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 7 July (1978)
Constitution: 7 July 1978
Legal system: English common law, which is widely disregarded
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir John LAPLI (since NA 1999) elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the advice of Parliament for up to five years; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of a majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by Parliament; deputy prime minister appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from among the members of Parliament cabinet: Cabinet consists of 20 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from among the members of Parliament head of government: Prime Minister Allan KEMAKEZA (since 17 December 2001); Deputy Prime Minister Snyder RINI (since 17 December 2001)
Legislative branch: unicameral National Parliament (50 seats; members elected from single- member constituencies by popular vote to serve four-year terms) election results: percent of vote by party - PAP 40%, SIACC 40%, PPP 20%; seats by party - PAP 16, SIACC 13, PPP 2, SILP 1, independents 18 elections: last held 5 December 2001 (next to be held by December 2005)
Judicial branch: Court of Appeal Political parties and leaders: Association of Independents [Snyder RINI]; People's Alliance Party or PAP [Allan KEMAKEZA]; People's Progressive Party or PPP [Mannaseh Damukana SOGAVARE]; Solomon Islands Alliance for Change Coalition or SIACC [Bartholomew ULUFA'ALU]; Solomon Islands Labor Party or SILP [Joses TUHANUKU] note: in general, Solomon Islands politics is characterized by fluid coalitions Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACP, AsDB, C, ESCAP, FAO, G-77,
participation: IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IOC, ITU, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Jeremiah MANELE chancery: 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400L, New York, NY 10017 telephone: [1] (212) 599-6192, 6193 FAX: [1] (212) 661-8925 Diplomatic representation from the the US does not have an embassy in
US: Solomon Islands (embassy closed July 1993); the ambassador to Papua New Guinea is accredited to the Solomon Islands
Flag description: divided diagonally by a thin yellow stripe from the lower hoist-side corner; the upper triangle (hoist side) is blue with five white five- pointed stars arranged in an X pattern; the lower triangle is green Economy Solomon Islands -
Economy - overview: The bulk of the population depends on agriculture, fishing, and forestry for at least part of their livelihood. Most manufactured goods and petroleum products must be imported. The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. However, severe ethnic violence, the closing of key business enterprises, and an empty government treasury have led to serious economic disarray, indeed near collapse. Tanker deliveries of crucial fuel supplies (including those for electrical generation) have become sporadic due to the government's inability to pay and attacks against ships. Telecommunications are threatened by the nonpayment of bills and by the lack of technical and maintenance staff many of whom have left the country.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $800 million (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: -10% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,700 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 42% industry: 11% services: 47% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7.9% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 26,842 Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 75%, industry 5%, services 20% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: NA%
Budget: revenues: $38 million (2001) expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA
Industries: fish (tuna), mining, timber Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production: 32 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 29.76 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: cocoa, beans, coconuts, palm kernels, rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs; timber; fish
Exports: $165 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Exports - commodities: timber, fish, copra, palm oil, cocoa
Exports - partners: Japan 22%, China 15%, Philippines 13%, South Korea 12%, UK 12%, Thailand 5% (2000)
Imports: $152 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Imports - commodities: plant and equipment, manufactured goods, food and live animals, fuels, chemicals
Imports - partners: Australia 27%, Singapore 25%, NZ 5.5%, Japan 5.3%, US 5.1% (2000)
Debt - external: $137 million (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $28 million mainly from Japan, Australia, China, and NZ (2001 est.)
Currency: Solomon Islands dollar (SBD)
Currency code: SBD
Exchange rates: Solomon Islands dollars per US dollar - 5.3728 (December 2001), 5.0889 (2000), 4.8381 (1999), 4.8156 (1998), 3.7169 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Solomon Islands Telephones - main lines in use: 8,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 658 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA domestic: NA international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 0, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 57,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 0 (1997)
Televisions: 3,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .sb Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 3,000 (2000) Transportation Solomon Islands
Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: 1,360 km paved: 34 km unpaved: 1,326 km (includes about 800 km of private plantation roads) (1996 est.)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Aola Bay, Honiara, Lofung, Noro, Viru Harbor, Yandina
Merchant marine: none (2002 est.)
Airports: 31 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 2 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 29 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 9 under 914 m: 19 (2001) Military Solomon Islands
Military branches: no regular military forces; Solomon Islands National Reconnaissance and Surveillance Force; Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) Military expenditures - dollar $NA
figure: Military expenditures - percent of NA%
GDP: Transnational Issues Solomon Islands Disputes - international: none

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Island country, South Pacific Ocean.

(Another island group named Solomon Islands, which includes Bougainville, is part of Papua New Guinea.) The country includes the islands of Guadalcanal, Malaita, San Cristobal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, Florida, and Rennell; the Russell, Shortland, Santa Cruz, and New Georgia island groups; and small islands and reefs. Area: 10,985 sq mi (28,450 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 439,000. Capital: Honiara. The population is largely Melanesian. Languages: English (official); Pijin (an English-based pidgin), and more than 60 indigenous Melanesian languages. Religion: Christianity (mostly Protestantism). Currency: Solomon Islands dollar. The Solomons group consists of seven large volcanic islands arranged in two parallel chains that converge in the southeast. They consist mostly of heavily wooded, mountainous terrain drained by short, swift-flowing rivers. The climate is tropical. The economy is based on agriculture, fishing, and lumbering. Tourism is increasing as cruise ships and visitors to World War II battlefields stop at the islands. The country is a constitutional monarchy with one legislative house; its chief of state is the British monarch represented by the governor-general, and the head of government is the prime minister. The Solomon Islands were probably settled с 2000 BC by Austronesian people. Visited by the Spanish in 1568, they were subsequently explored and charted by the Dutch, French, and British. They were under British protection (1893–1900) and became the British Solomon Islands. The Japanese invasion of 1942 ignited three years of the most bitter fighting in the Pacific, particularly on Guadalcanal. The protectorate became self-governing in 1975 and fully independent in 1978. In 1999 the Solomons became embroiled in ethnic fighting. The arrival of New Zealand and Australian armed forces established order, and a peace accord between the factions was signed in October 2000.

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▪ 2009

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 517,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Nathaniel Waena
Head of government:
Prime Minister Derek Sikua

      Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua's new government enjoyed rare stability in 2008, with 38 of the 48 MPs agreeing to support his development program and to refrain from no-confidence votes. In an indication of growing support for both his broad-based political program and his personal leadership style, Sikua's government easily defeated its first no-confidence motion in August.

      The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) continued to guarantee the country's security. RAMSI also provided technical assistance to rebuild the Solomons' governance structures, civil service, and economy, all of which were proceeding well. Relations between Australia, a major aid donor, and the Solomon Islands government improved in 2008 as new governments assumed power in both countries. Structural-adjustment policies promoted by aid donors were beginning to create difficulties, as the new schemes would require a greater degree of fiscal discipline on the part of government agencies that were unaccustomed to such restraint. In July the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority forgave SI$191 million (about US$27.4 million) owed by state-owned enterprises, but the authority gave notice that state organizations that failed to pay future bills would have their power disconnected. The first victim of the new policy was the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, which faced disconnection at the end of July.

      In early September former prime minister Sir Allan Kemakeza's two-month jail sentence, handed down in late 2007 for crimes committed in 2002 while he was prime minister, was increased to six months by Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer. Kemakeza had been convicted on charges that included “demanding with menace, intimidation and larceny” in regard to authorizing militants to attack and seize vehicles owned by an Honiara law firm, and Palmer's ruling was in response to the prosecution's appeal that the original sentence was inadequate. Kemakeza also was stripped of his current position as minister for forestry, environment, and conservation and his seat in Parliament.

Cluny Macpherson

▪ 2008

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 495,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Nathaniel Waena
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Manasseh Sogavare and, from December 20, Derek Sikua

      In 2007 there was continuing tension between Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which had been invited to the Solomons in 2003 to restore order and to rebuild government institutions. Sogavare was keen to negotiate a withdrawal date for RAMSI, but a September 2007 survey found that more than 80% of Solomon Islanders wanted to retain RAMSI and believed that the political and economic conditions would deteriorate if the multinational security force left. Sogavare further annoyed Australia when he appointed as attorney general a longtime friend and Fijian national, Julian Moti, whose extradition Australia was seeking, and when he replaced the country's Australian police chief with another Fijian national, Jahir Khan, who promptly submitted a plan for rearming the Solomon Islands police whom RAMSI had disarmed in 2003. In December Sogavare lost a no-confidence vote and was replaced by Derek Sikua. The new government dismissed Moti, who was extradited to Australia and held on child sex charges.

      Despite the political tension, the economy was growing very fast. It was heavily dependent, however, on unsustainable levels of logging, which had been growing at 6–12% annually. Natural forests were likely to be depleted in six years, and both the IMF and environmental interests had urged reductions in logging.

Cluny Macpherson

▪ 2007

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 482,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Nathaniel Waena
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Sir Allan Kemakeza, Snyder Rini from April 20, and, from May 4, Manasseh Sogavare

      The year 2006 proved to be a difficult one in Solomon Islands, after a period of political stability and economic growth that had followed the July 2003 establishment of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The Australian-led multinational security force investigated, tried, and convicted a number of people for crimes dating back to 2000.

 The April 5 election resulted in the selection of a new prime minister, Snyder Rini, but he resigned after eight days amid antigovernment riots and was replaced by a former prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, who had campaigned against RAMSI. Despite apparent early entente between Sogavare and RAMSI officials, tensions arose over cabinet appointments. The prime minister designated two MPs whom RAMSI forces had arrested for inciting riots that resulted in the burning and looting of Honiara's Chinatown. Sogavare persisted, but, faced with domestic and international protest, he capitulated and appointed replacements to his cabinet. He again found himself in conflict with RAMSI over the selection in September of Julian Moti as attorney general. Moti, an Australian citizen who was wanted by Australia on child-sex charges, took refuge in the Solomons' embassy in Papua New Guinea before being spirited back to the Solomons, where RAMSI and local police personnel arrested him for immigration offenses. Sogavare threatened to evict RAMSI forces, but a compromise agreement was brokered at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in October.

Cluny Macpherson

▪ 2006

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 471,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Nathaniel Waena
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza

      In 2005 Solomon Islands continued its recovery from the civil disorder that destroyed infrastructure and effectively caused a cessation of government activity. By midyear the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission, which brought some 250 police from 11 countries as well as technical advisers, had largely restored public order and government systems and had contributed to the reconciliation of rival factions. Audit reports confirmed widespread fraud, corruption, and poor public-sector management; revenue-gathering systems had fallen into abeyance, and some government activities had not been audited for 20 years. In March militia leader Harold Keke and two associates were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a cabinet minister in 2002.

      The economy, which had been in contraction since 2000, showed signs of recovery. The government discontinued exemptions on customs duties for log exports amid long-standing allegations that the system had been subject to corruption and misuse. Leaked documents from the forestry industry showed that businesses in the Solomon Islands were receiving only half of the world price for exports that remained a mainstay of the economy and revealed that forests were being logged at unsustainable levels. The flow of aid increased, with Japan, the EU, Australia, and New Zealand committing to major projects.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2005

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 461,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governors-General Sir John Lapli and, from July 7, Nathaniel Waena
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza

      Solomon Islands continued to make progress toward normalcy in 2004 after having endured civil disturbances over the previous few years. Peacekeepers were withdrawn from the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal beginning in February, but there were outbreaks of violence in the centre of the island later in the year. One government minister was charged with having committed violent offenses in 2000 as a member of one of the warring militias. Police leadership in four provinces was strengthened with expatriate command appointments, and steps were taken to curtail the practices that had seen some SI$55 million (U.S.$1 = about SI$7.35) in illegal police payments during 2002–03.

      The budgetary situation also showed improvement, which reflected the steps taken to cleanse the public-service payroll, clamp down on illegal payments, and improve financial controls. The 2003 expenditure budget of SI$259 million was exceeded by SI$74 million, but the budget showed a SI$30 million surplus in the final quarter of 2004. The central bank projected GDP growth of 4% for the year. In October the central bank began to repay development bank depositors whose accounts had been frozen a year earlier because of insufficient funds.

      In a midyear cabinet reshuffle, the leader of the opposition, John Garo, joined the government of Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza. He was replaced as opposition leader by former prime minister Francis Billy Hilly.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2004

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 450,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir John Lapli
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza

      For the first part of 2003, Solomon Islands remained in crisis—the government was effectively bankrupt and unable to provide services or ensure public safety, and armed militias remained a disruptive force. Sir Frederick Soaki, a leading member of the National Peace Council, was murdered in February. The economy had declined by 25% in three years.

      In midyear and at the invitation of Solomon Islands, the 16 governments of the Pacific Islands Forum formed an Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission (RAM), which comprised a multinational police force supported by armed troops, to disarm militias and restore public order. The RAM had an early success with the surrender and arrest of Harold Keke, a self-styled general of the Guadalcanal Liberation Army, who had terrorized the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal and was believed to have been responsible for a number of murders and kidnappings. By October, Australia and New Zealand were able to reduce their military presence, but the police remained.

      With order restored, aid donors—notably Australia, New Zealand, and the EU—again released funds that would provide assistance for trade and development. A major donors conference took place in Honiara in November, and the cost of a recovery package was estimated at $700 million. The government was developing a new draft constitution that would attempt to address provincial and ethnic tensions through a federal structure.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2003

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 439,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir John Lapli
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza

      Solomon Islands remained in a state of crisis in 2002 in regard to both public order and the economy. Two years after the Townsville Peace Agreement nominally ended ethnic conflict, many had still not surrendered their weapons. Skirmishes between militias and government attempts to capture militant leaders led to a number of deaths. Some alleged that compensation payments for property damage and personal injury were inconsistent and affected by political considerations and nepotism; strikes and disorder ensued when payments were curtailed partway through the distribution process.

      The disruption of export industries, destruction of infrastructure, and reduced employment meant that government was able to meet only 60% of recurrent costs. In April the minister of finance was sacked when he announced a 25% currency devaluation, and the Solomon Islands dollar was restored to its former value. The IMF advised against the proposed adoption of Australian currency, because reserves were insufficient to purchase the foreign currency required for covering government debt. Taiwan supported the Solomon Islands' budget with some $7 million over the year, and, at the United Nations General Assembly session in September, Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza supported Taiwan's bid for UN membership.

      Cyclone Zoe, the largest Pacific cyclone ever recorded, with winds of over 300 km/hr (186 mph) and 10-m (33-ft) waves, struck the Solomon Islands on December 29. The extent of the massive damage would not be known for weeks.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2002

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 480,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General John Lapli
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Manasseh Sogavare and, from December 17, Sir Allan Kemakeza

      Despite the peace agreement reached in 2000 that ended two years of ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands, the government led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare struggled to function in 2001. The economy remained in a state of near collapse, and the government was unable to meet its financial obligations or provide basic services. The power supply was irregular; civil servants went unpaid; businesses closed; and there were few exports in an economy where consumption was already heavily dependent on imports. The situation was exacerbated by the murder of a former commander of the Isatambu Freedom Movement and by violent attacks on politicians and government officials. In July the first $8 million tranche of a soft loan from Taiwan to compensate victims of ethnic violence led to disputes concerning distribution.

      The government passed legislation granting amnesty to those who had taken part in ethnic violence since October 1998. A possible move from a provincial and national system of government to a federation of states remained under consideration. Despite concern over a lack of funds and administrative capacity, elections for the new 50-seat parliament took place on December 5. Former minister of foreign affairs Sir Allan Kemakeza was sworn in as prime minister.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2001

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 466,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General John Lapli
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Bartholomew Ulufa'alu and, from June 30, Manasseh Sogavare

      A peace accord that ended two years of ethnic conflict in Solomon Islands was signed in October 2000. The conflict had begun when the indigenous Isatambu Freedom Movement (IFM) of Guadalcanal tried to force the expulsion of immigrants from Malaita Island.

      The government became largely dysfunctional and was unable to guarantee public order, maintain services, or pay its bills; rural areas were controlled by the IFM, and the urban area was in the hands of the Malaita Eagle Force paramilitaries. An international peace-monitoring group supported local police and oversaw the surrender of weapons. In June Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu resigned to facilitate peace negotiations and was replaced by Manasseh Sogavare, who formed a coalition government.

      Political instability had a serious impact on the economy; one international fishing company suspended operations and repatriated all foreign workers, palm oil production was interrupted, and transport was disrupted. Within the government, there was conflict over whether to continue recognizing Taiwan or to establish links with Beijing. Earlier, Solomon Islands had signed a fisheries agreement with Taiwan that would allow 42 tuna vessels to work in the Solomon Islands exclusive economic zone for an annual fee of $8,000 per vessel.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 2000

Area:
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 442,000
Capital:
Honiara
Chief of state:
Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governors-General Moses Pitakaka and, from July 7, John Lapli
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu

      A state of emergency was declared in the Solomon Islands in June 1999 when, after six months of public agitation and disturbances, radical groups on Guadalcanal sought the repatriation of all Malaita people living on the island. Malaita was the most populous island in Solomon Islands, and, after a long history of labour migration, its people secured a dominant position in politics and the economy. Attacks and harassment by the Isatambu Freedom Fighters increased tension and saw thousands of Malaitans return home. The Honiara Accord signed in June brought only a brief respite until a Commonwealth envoy, former Fijian prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, negotiated a fragile peace and secured agreement to the operations of a multinational peace-monitoring group from the countries of the region and supported by police.

      The government imposed a national wage freeze and concluded the first stage of civil service reforms that saw the elimination of 400 jobs. Forestry remained central to the economy, although investor interest was lower than in 1997 and 1998. There was also controversy over the conditions agreed to by the government for a Malaysian company's logging operations near Marovo Lagoon on Vangunu Island, one of the least-touched parts of the country.

Barrie Macdonald

▪ 1999

      Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 426,000

      Capital: Honiara

      Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Moses Pitakaka

      Head of government: Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu

      Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu in 1998 faced political uncertainty that culminated in the dismissal of the minister of finance in July. In September the government survived a motion of no confidence in the National Parliament, after which Ulufa'alu reshuffled his Cabinet. In October former prime minister Solomon Mamaloni became leader of the opposition, replacing Job Duddley Tausinga.

      The economy suffered from the Asian financial crisis and from the collapse of the log market. Forestry exports declined from 650,00 metric tons in 1997 to 360,000 metric tons in 1998, reducing export earnings from SI$309 million (U.S. $67 million) to SI$101 million (U.S. $22 million).

      Continuing drought in the western Solomons and Cyclone Katrina in January made disaster relief measures necessary, especially on the islands of Rennell and Bellona. These developments were associated with the El Niño weather pattern, which also caused a rise in sea temperature that contributed to the largest tuna catch in the Solomon Islands since 1983.

BARRIE MACDONALD

▪ 1998

      Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 411,000

      Capital: Honiara

      Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Moses Pitakaka

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Solomon Mamaloni and, from August 27, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu

      After general elections in August 1997, Bartholomew ("Bart") Ulufa'alu was chosen prime minister by the legislature. From Malaita, Ulufa'alu was the leader of the Liberal Party and headed the Alliance for Change coalition. An economics graduate from the University of Papua New Guinea, he served as leader of the opposition from 1976 to 1980 and minister of finance from 1981 to 1984.

      In May the minister of finance acknowledged earlier mismanagement and said that the country could not pay its debts but also argued that the economy was fundamentally sound. At that time the government carried internal debt of $117 million, external debt of $116 million, and debt-servicing arrears of some $25 million. Forestry remained the major source of overseas earnings, though controversy continued over government management of the sector. The new Gold Ridge gold-mining venture on Guadalcanal promised significant economic growth.

      Despite progress in talks on border management and defense cooperation, the border with Papua New Guinea (PNG) remained a source of tension. Incursions into Solomon Islands territory by PNG forces countering secessionist action in Bougainville gave rise to formal protests in March and April.

BARRIE MACDONALD

      This article updates Solomon Islands.

▪ 1997

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, the Solomon Islands comprises a 1,450-km (900-mi) chain of islands and atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 396,000. Cap.: Honiara. Monetary unit: Solomon Islands dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of SI$3.54 to U.S. $1 (SI$5.58 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1996, Moses Pitakaka; prime minister, Solomon Mamaloni.

      Despite serious economic problems, political controversy, and a Cabinet reshuffle, the government of Solomon Mamaloni remained in office in 1996. Forestry remained the mainstay of the economy (56% of export revenue). The government, however, planned to end log exports by 1999 in favour of processed products. This encouraged log exporters to accelerate their operations.

      On the Papua New Guinea border, there was continued tension arising from the civil war on Bougainville, with allegations of border incursions. Measures taken to alleviate the tensions had little effect. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This article updates Solomon Islands.

▪ 1996

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, the Solomon Islands comprises a 1,450-km (900-mi) chain of islands and atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 382,000. Cap.: Honiara. Monetary unit: Solomon Islands dollar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of SI$3.40 to U.S. $1 (SI$5.38 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1995, Moses Pitakaka; prime minister, Solomon Mamaloni.

      After Prime Minister Francis Billy Hilly was forced to resign in October 1994, Solomon Mamaloni was recalled to office for his third term as prime minister, with a majority of 29 to 18 over former governor-general Sir Baddeley Devesi. Mamaloni's coalition, the Group for National Unity and Reconciliation, promised to increase the size of Parliament and to extend its term to five years.

      The new government vowed to place renewed emphasis on investment in production, to encourage the privatization of the public sector, and to increase trade. It also effectively halved taxes on the export of round logs and persisted with logging projects. On April 3, 1995, the government announced that Pavuvu Island would be cleared of timber, despite the objections of residents, who would be relocated. These policies amounted to a reversal of Hilly's attempt to control the logging industry, which he had seen as a source of corruption and improper influence in government. The government faced significant economic difficulties. In August the central bank accused the government of defaulting on debt-servicing obligations. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This updates the article Solomon Islands.

▪ 1995

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, the Solomon Islands comprises a 1,450-km (900-mi) chain of islands and atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 368,000. Cap.: Honiara. Monetary unit: Solomon Islands dollar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of SI$3.27 to U.S. $1 (SI$5.20 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governors-general in 1994, Sir George Lepping and, from June, Moses Pitakaka; prime ministers, Francis Billy Hilly until October 31 and, from November 7, Solomon Mamaloni.

      The continuing rivalry between Prime Minister Francis Billy Hilly and his predecessor, Solomon Mamaloni, and their respective coalition parties dominated politics in 1994. Hilly's government survived a short budgetary session of Parliament in January but then remained in office without facing Parliament for several months. In October there was a constitutional crisis when the governor-general ruled that Hilly no longer had a parliamentary majority and tried to swear in Mamaloni as interim prime minister. The High Court held that only Parliament could decide the issue and gave Hilly until October 31 to resign. Hilly stepped down on October 31, and a week later Mamaloni was elected prime minister.

      Despite the political turmoil, the government took steps to attack the country's economic problems with increases in indirect taxes and other measures to reduce inflation. Faced with the logging of its hardwood forests at twice the sustainable level, the government announced that the export of round logs would be banned beginning in 1997. Receipts from log exports had risen from SI$49 million in 1991 to SI$222 million in 1993, representing half of all export earnings. A moratorium was placed on the issue of new export licenses. With support from Japanese aid and joint ventures, steps were taken to expand local participation in the fishing industry. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This updates the article Solomon Islands.

▪ 1994

      A constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, the Solomon Islands comprises a 1,450-km (900-mi) chain of islands and atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. Area: 28,370 sq km (10,954 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 349,000. Cap.: Honiara. Monetary unit: Solomon Islands dollar, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of SI$3.22 to U.S. $1 (SI$4.87 = £ 1 sterling). Queen, Elizabeth II; governor-general in 1993, Sir George Lepping; prime ministers, Solomon Mamaloni and, from June 18, Francis Billy Hilly.

      After the general election in May 1993, Francis Billy Hilly became prime minister, replacing Solomon Mamaloni. Although Mamaloni controlled the largest parliamentary grouping, he did not command a majority in the newly expanded 47-seat Parliament and lost by 24 votes to 23. The new government, called the National Coalition Partners, was an alliance of seven groups opposed to Mamaloni, who put up a lengthy legal battle in an attempt to prevent Hilly from taking office.

      The civil war on neighbouring Bougainville, which was trying to secede from Papua New Guinea, caused tension between the two nations despite agreements to normalize relations. Mamaloni's government was seen as supporting the Bougainville rebels, while Papua New Guinean forces made incursions into Solomon territory, killing and injuring civilians and causing significant property damage. In November Amnesty International reported torture and murder by Papua New Guinean military forces against secessionists.

      After a period of economic instability, gross domestic product grew by 8% in 1992, largely because of an 80% increase in log production. The government was obliged to prop up ailing Solomon Airlines and offer for sale its 70% shareholding. (BARRIE MACDONALD)

      This updates the article Solomon Islands.

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Introduction
Solomon Islands, flag of the  country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of a double chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in Melanesia. The country comprises most of the Solomons chain, with the exception of Buka (Buka Island) and Bougainville (Bougainville Island), two islands at the northwestern end that form an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea. Honiara, on Guadalcanal (Guadalcanal Island) Island, is Solomon Islands' capital and largest city.

Land
  The main islands of the group are large and rugged, rising to 7,644 feet (2,330 metres) at Mount Popomanaseu on Guadalcanal (Guadalcanal Island). They lie in two parallel chains running northwest-southeast: the southern chain includes Vella Lavella, the New Georgia Islands, Savo, and Guadalcanal; the northern, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, and Malaita. The chains converge on San Cristobal (Makira Island). The Santa Cruz Islands are a group of small islands located some 345 miles (555 km) east of Guadalcanal; the largest island in the group is Nendö (also called Ndeni Island or Santa Cruz Island). Geologically, the Solomon Islands are part of the volcanic arc extending from New Ireland in Papua New Guinea to Vanuatu.

      The climate is tropical oceanic—that is, hot and humid but relieved by cool winds and abundant, year-round rainfall. Temperatures seldom exceed 90 °F (32 °C), and rainfall generally averages 120–140 inches (3,000–3,500 mm) a year. Heavily wooded, mountainous terrain is characteristic, and, although there are extensive plains, only those on the northern side of Guadalcanal have been developed for large-scale agriculture. As in most island groups, animal life is limited.

      There are hot springs on Savo, where a volcano last erupted in the 1840s. Solomon Islands has a number of other volcanoes. For example, Tinakula in the Santa Cruz group and Kavachi, a submarine volcano near New Georgia, have erupted regularly every few years, and Simbo Island has a solfatara (a volcanic area or vent that yields only hot vapours and sulfurous gases). Earthquakes and destructive cyclones also occur regularly.

      Most of the population is Melanesian (Melanesian culture). Polynesians (Polynesian culture), who form a small minority, live mainly on outlying atolls, principally Ontong Java Atoll, Bellona, Rennell Island, the Reef Islands, the Stewart Islands (Sikaiana), Tikopia, and Anuta. There are also small numbers of Chinese and Europeans and of Gilbertese from Micronesia who were resettled on Ghizo and Vaghena islands between 1955 and 1971 by British administrators seeking to alleviate overpopulation in the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati). Almost all Solomon Islanders are Christian; most are Protestant (mainly Anglican), with smaller numbers of Roman Catholics and members of other denominations. A small minority practices traditional beliefs. More than 60 languages and dialects are spoken. English is the official language, but Pijin, an English-based Melanesian pidgin (Melanesian pidgins), is the language that is most widely used and understood. Most of the people live in small rural villages. They engage mainly in subsistence gardening, pig raising, and fishing but are also involved in the cash economy.

Economy
      Civil unrest in the late 1990s and early 21st century, including a coup in 2000, led to the near-collapse of the country's economy. Damage to infrastructure on Guadalcanal resulted, disrupting transportation, commerce, and agriculture, and many enterprises were forced out of business. Earthquakes followed by a tsunami in 2007 caused further economic setbacks.

      In the early 21st century the service sector employed the majority of the active workforce and contributed almost half of the country's gross domestic product. Tourism has been developed but is not a major source of income. Solomon Islands' main resources, fish and timber, have been exploited excessively, which has resulted in their depletion. Its other export products are derived from plantation crops: palm oil, copra, and cacao (the source of cocoa). China, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand are the major recipients. The chief imports are machinery, fuels, manufactured goods, and food, and Australia, Singapore, Japan, and New Zealand are the main suppliers.

      The islands have significant reserves of bauxite (on Rennell Island) and phosphates (on Bellona), and some gold has been extracted on Guadalcanal. Manufacturing primarily involves the processing of coconut and other vegetable oils and of cocoa. Traditional handicrafts, including woodwork, shell inlay, mats, baskets, and shell jewelry, are made both for the tourist market and for export. The Solomon Islands dollar is the official currency; indigenous currencies (currency) such as shell money (from Malaita) and red-feather money (from Santa Cruz) are also made for use in customary transactions.

      The principal airport is Honiara International Airport, although there are several airfields throughout the islands that may also serve as international points of entry. The government-owned Solomon Airlines provides domestic and regional air service. Ports handling overseas cargoes include Honiara, Tulagi (the former capital), and Gizo Harbour. Aola Bay, Viru Harbour, and Graciosa Bay are used mainly for log exports. Interisland shipping is operated both privately and by the government.

Government and society
 Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy, with the British monarch, represented by a governor-general, serving as the formal head of state. Still, the country, a member of the Commonwealth, is independent, and the governor-general is appointed on the advice of the unicameral National Parliament. The governor-general, who serves a term of up to five years, must be a citizen of Solomon Islands. Members of the Parliament are elected by universal adult suffrage and serve for four years (unless Parliament is dissolved sooner). Executive power is exercised by a prime minister (elected by and from Parliament) and a cabinet appointed by the governor-general from among the members of Parliament on the recommendation of the prime minister. Although political parties exist in name, their organization and discipline tend to be loose. The prime minister rarely commands a clear majority in Parliament, and so governments are usually formed of a coalition of parties or factions. Local government councils control matters regarding transportation, economic development, health, and education.

      Education is not compulsory. Schools are run both by the national and provincial governments and by various churches. Many secondary schools provide practical training in fields such as agriculture and development studies. There are several teacher-training schools and a technical institute, as well as a campus of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara. Some students attend universities overseas, especially in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. There is a hospital at Honiara.

Cultural life
 Much of traditional culture endures. Crafts are promoted by the Solomon Islands National Museum, established in 1969 in Honiara, and dances and music are regularly performed. Panpipes and percussive “bamboo bands” (assemblages of drums made of bamboo) are popular. An indigenous literary movement developed in the late 20th century; the writing is in English and mostly published in Solomon Islands. For a more detailed discussion of the culture of Solomon Islands, see Melanesian culture.

History (Solomon Islands)
 This section focuses specifically on the history and development of the area and country now known as Solomon Islands.

      The Solomon Islands were initially settled by at least 2000 BCE—well before the archaeological record begins—probably by people of the Austronesian language group (Austronesian languages). Pottery of the Lapita culture was in use in Santa Cruz and the Reef Islands about 1500 BCE. Material dating to about 1000 BCE has also been excavated at Vatuluma Cave (Guadalcanal), on Santa Ana Island, and on the outlying islands of Anuta and Tikopia.

      The first European to reach the islands was the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira in 1568. Subsequently, unjustified rumours led to the belief that he had not only found gold there but had also discovered where the biblical king Solomon obtained the gold for his temple in Jerusalem. The islands thus acquired the name Islas de Solomón. Later Spanish expeditions to the southwest Pacific in 1595 and 1606 were unable to confirm the discoveries reported by Mendaña. Geographers came to doubt the existence of the group, and it was not until the late 18th century, after further sightings by French and English navigators, that the Solomons were accurately charted. After the settlement of Sydney by the English (British Empire) in 1788, naval and commercial shipping began increasingly to pass through the Solomons' waters.

      Roman Catholic missionaries (mission) failed to establish a settlement in the 1840s but did so in 1898. Anglican missionaries, who had been taking islanders to New Zealand for training since the 1850s, began to settle in the Solomons in the 1870s. Other missions arrived later.

      By the late 19th century the islands were being exploited for labour to work the plantations of Fiji and other islands and of Queensland, Austl. About 30,000 labourers were recruited between 1870 and 1910. To protect their own interests, Germany and Britain divided the Solomons between them in 1886; but in 1899 Germany transferred the northern islands, except for Buka (Buka Island) and Bougainville (Bougainville Island), to Britain (which had already claimed the southern islands) in return for recognition of German claims in Western Samoa (now Samoa) and parts of Africa. The British Solomon Islands Protectorate was declared in 1893, partly in response to abuses associated with labour recruitment and partly to regulate contacts between islanders and European (colonialism, Western) settlers, but mainly to forestall a threat of annexation by France. Colonial (colonialism, Western) rule began in 1896. Although generally humane, administrators were more concerned with promoting the interests of European traders and planters than those of the islanders, and islanders were punished harshly for offenses against colonial law and order. The murder of government tax collectors by members of the Kwaio ethnic group on Malaita in 1927 was answered with a savage punitive expedition, backed by an Australian warship, that burned and looted villages and killed many of the Kwaio. Together with some of his associates, Basiana, the leader of the tax collectors' killers, was hanged, and his young sons were forced to witness the execution.

      With the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific, the Japanese began occupying the protectorate early in 1942, but their advance farther southward was stopped by U.S. forces, which invaded on August 7. Fighting in the Solomons over the next 15 months was some of the most bitter in the Pacific; the long Battle of Guadalcanal (Guadalcanal, Battle of) was one of the crucial conflicts of the Pacific war. Throughout the campaign the U.S. forces and their allies were strongly supported by the islanders. After the war, because of the proximity of an airfield and the availability of flat land and of the military's buildings, Honiara on Guadalcanal became the new capital, replacing Tulagi.

      Another result of the war was to stimulate political consciousness among the islanders and so inspire a nationalist movement known as Maasina Rule, which lasted from 1944 to 1952. Subsequently, in response to the worldwide movement for decolonization, the Solomons set out on the path of constitutional development. The country was formally renamed Solomon Islands in 1975, and independence was attained on July 7, 1978. Peter Kenilorea, who had helped lead Solomon Islands to independence, became its first prime minister (1978–81) and served a second term from 1984 to 1986. Solomon Mamaloni, another pre-independence leader, served as prime minister several times in the 1980s and '90s; resigning from his final term in August 1997 amid allegations of corruption, he was replaced by Bartholomew Ulufa'alu.

 In 1999 Solomon Islands became embroiled in ethnic violence, with rebels on Guadalcanal fighting to overthrow the island's dominant Malaitan minority. Ulufa'alu, an ethnic Malaitan, was deposed in a June 2000 coup, and civil disorder reigned. Later that year New Zealand and Australian forces arrived, and a peace accord was signed. Although sporadic violence continued, efforts began to rebuild the heavily damaged country. The conflict had led to the near-collapse of the country's government, which was unable to provide services or ensure public safety. Foreign aid was secured to repair the extensive property and infrastructure damage.

      Economic and political instability continued through the next several years. In mid-2003 the governments of the Pacific Islands Forum formed a multinational Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), led by Australia, that supplied troops to help maintain order. The country's recovery progressed slowly, supported by an influx of foreign aid, particularly from Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union. After the 2006 general election, antigovernment riots broke out and parts of Honiara were burned and looted; the new prime minister, Snyder Rini, resigned after eight days in office and was replaced by Manasseh Sogavare, who opposed the presence of RAMSI. Conflict arose between RAMSI and the government over one of the prime minister's political appointments, and Sogavare threatened to expel the multinational force. A compromise was brokered late in the year, and RAMSI remained. After Sogavare lost a no-confidence vote in 2007, Derek Sikua became prime minister. Consideration of a new constitution was ongoing; it would address provincial and ethnic tensions by changing the governmental structure to that of a federation of states.

Hugh Michael Laracy Sophie Foster

Additional Reading
A general introduction to the region is provided by Norman Douglas and Ngaire Douglas (eds.), Pacific Islands Yearbook, 17th ed. (1994). Various geographic, cultural, and historical aspects of Solomon Islands are treated in Patrick Vinton Kirch and D.E. Yen, Tikopia: The Prehistory and Ecology of a Polynesian Outlier (1982); Judith A. Bennett, Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 1800–1978 (1987); David Hilliard, God's Gentlemen: A History of the Melanesian Mission, 1849–1942 (1978); Roger M. Keesing and Peter Corris, Lightning Meets the West Wind: The Malaita Massacre (1980); Hugh Laracy, Marists and Melanesians: A History of Catholic Missions in the Solomon Islands (1976); Hugh Laracy (ed.), Pacific Protest: The Maasina Rule Movement, Solomon Islands, 1944–1952 (1983); and Deborah Waite, Art of the Solomon Islands: From the Collection of the Barbier-Müller Museum (1983).Sophie Foster

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Universalium. 2010.

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