Solomon Islands - Solomon Islands
Motto: "To Lead is to Serve"
and largest city
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
• from the United Kingdom
|7 July 1978|
|28,400 km2 (11,000 sq mi) (139th)|
• Water (%)
• 2018 estimate
|18.1/km2 (46.9/sq mi) (200th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2018)|| 0.557|
medium · 153rd
|Currency||Solomon Islands dollar (SBD)|
|ISO 3166 code||SB|
The Solomon Islands are a sovereign state consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu and covering a land area of 28,400 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). The country has a population of 652,858 and its capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal. The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (a part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes outlying islands, such as Rennell and Bellona, and the Santa Cruz Islands.
The islands have been settled since at least 30,000–28,800 BC, with later waves of migrants, notably the Lapita people, mixing and producing the modern indigenous Solomon Islanders population. In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit them, naming them the Islas Salomón. Mendaña returned decades later in 1595 and another Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós visited the Solomons in 1606. Britain defined its area of interest in the Solomon Islands archipelago in June 1893, when Captain Gibson R.N., of HMS Curacoa, declared the southern Solomon Islands a British protectorate. During World War II, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States, Commonwealth forces and the Empire of Japan, such as in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The official name of the then-British administration was changed from the British Solomon Islands Protectorate to the Solomon Islands in 1975, and self-government was achieved the following year. Independence was obtained, and the name changed to just "Solomon Islands" (without the definite article), in 1978. At independence, Solomon Islands became a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Solomon Islands is Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General.
In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit the Solomon Islands archipelago, naming it Islas Salomón ("Solomon Islands") after the wealthy biblical King Solomon. It is said that they were given this name in the mistaken assumption that they contained great riches, and he believed them to be the Bible-mentioned city of Ophir. During most of the colonial period, the territory's official name was "British Solomon Islands Protectorate" until 1975, when it was changed to "Solomon Islands". The definite article, "the", is not part of the country's official name but is sometimes used, both within and outside the country. Colloquially the islands are referred to simply as "the Solomons".
The Solomons were first colonised by people coming from the Bismarck Islands and New Guinea during the Pleistocene era circa 30,000–28,8000 BC, based on archaeological evidence found at Kilu Cave on Buka Island in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. At this point sea levels were lower and Buka and Bougainville were physically joined to the southern Solomons in one landmass ('Greater Bougainville'), though it is unclear precisely how far south these early settlers spread as no other archaeological site from this period have yet been found. As sea levels rose as the Ice Age ended circa 4000-3500 BC, the Greater Bougainville landmass split into the numerous islands that exist today. Evidence of later human settlements dating to c. 4500-2500 BC have been found at Poha Cave and Vatuluma Posovi Cave on Guadalcanal. The ethnographic identity of these early peoples is unclear, though it is thought that the speakers of the Central Solomon languages (a self-contained language family unrelated to other languages spoken in the Solomons) likely represent the descendants of these earlier settlers.
From c. 1200–800 BC Austronesian Lapita people began arriving from the Bismarcks with their characteristic ceramics. Evidence for their presence has been across the Solomon archipelago, as well at the Santa Cruz Islands in the south-east, with different islands being settled at different times. Linguistic and genetic evidence suggests that the Lapita people "leap-frogged" the already inhabited main Solomon Islands and settled first on the Santa Cruz group, with later back-migrations bringing their culture to the main group. These peoples mixed with the native Solomon Islanders and over time their languages became dominant, with most of the 60–70 languages spoken there belonging to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian language family. Then as now communities tended to exist in small villages practising subsistence agriculture, though extensive inter-island trade networks existed. Numerous ancient burial sites and other evidence of permanent settlements have been found from the period 1000–1500 AD throughout the islands, one of the most prominent examples being the Roviana cultural complex centred on the islands off the southern coast of New Georgia, where a large number of megalithic shrines and other structures were constructed in the 13th century.
Arrival of Europeans (1568–1886)
The first European to visit the islands was the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, sailing from Peru in 1568. Landing on Santa Isabel on 7 February, Mendaña explored several of the other islands including Makira, Guadalcanal and Malaita. Relations with the native Solomon Islanders were initially cordial, though often soured as time went by. As a result, Mendaña returned to Peru in August 1568. He returned to the Solomons with a larger crew on a second voyage in 1595, aiming to colonise the islands. They landed on Nendö in the Santa Cruz Islands and established a small settlement at Gracioso Bay. However the settlement failed due to poor relations with the native peoples and epidemics of disease amongst the Spanish which caused numerous deaths, with Mendaña himself dying in October. The new commander Pedro Fernandes de Queirós thus decided to abandon the settlement and they sailed north to the Spanish territory of the Philippines. Queirós later returned to the area in 1606, where he sighted Tikopia and Taumako, though this voyage was primarily to Vanuatu in the search of Terra Australis.
Save for Abel Tasman's sighting of the remote Ontong Java Atoll in 1648, no European sailed to the Solomons again until 1767, when the British explorer Philip Carteret sailed by the Santa Cruz Islands, Malaita and, continuing further north, Bougainville and the Bismarck Islands. French explorers also reached the Solomons, with Louis Antoine de Bougainville naming Choiseul in 1768 and Jean-François-Marie de Surville exploring the islands in 1769. In 1788 John Shortland, captaining a supply ship for Britain's new Australian colony at Botany Bay, sighted the Treasury and Shortland Islands. That same year the French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse was wrecked on Vanikoro; a rescue expedition led by Bruni d'Entrecasteaux sailed to Vanikoro but found no trace of La Pérouse. The fate of La Pérouse was not confirmed until 1826, when the English merchant Peter Dillon visited Tikopia and discovered items belonging to La Pérouse in the possession of the local people, confirmed by the subsequent voyage of Jules Dumont d'Urville in 1828.
Some of the earliest regular foreign visitors to the islands were whaling vessels from Britain, the United States and Australia. They came for food, wood and water from late in the 18th century, establishing a trading relationship with the Solomon Islanders and later taking aboard islanders to serve as crewmen on their ships. Relations between the islanders and visiting seamen was not always good and sometimes there was bloodshed. A knock-on effect of the greater European contact was the spread of diseases to which local peoples had no immunity, as well a shift in the balance of power between coastal groups, who had access to European weapons and technology, and inland groups who did not. In the second half of the 1800s more traders arrived seeking turtleshells, sea cucumbers, copra and sandalwood, occasionally establishing semi-permanent trading stations. However initial attempts at more long-term settlement, such as Benjamin Boyd's colony on Guadalcanal in 1851, were unsuccessful.
Beginning in the 1840s, and accelerating in the 1860s, islanders began to be recruited (or often kidnapped) as labourers for the colonies in Australia, Fiji and Samoa in a process known as "blackbirding". Conditions for workers were often poor and exploitative, and local islanders often violently attacked any Europeans who appeared on their island. The blackbird trade was chronicled by prominent Western writers, such as Joe Melvin and Jack London. Christian missionaries also began visiting the Solomons from the 1840s, beginning with an attempt by French Catholics under Jean-Baptiste Epalle to establish a mission on Santa Isabel, which was abandoned after Epalle was killed by islanders in 1845. Anglican missionaries began arriving from the 1850s, followed by other denominations, over time gaining a large number of converts.
Colonial period (1886–1978)
Establishment of colonial rule
In 1884 Germany annexed north-east New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago, and in 1886 they extended their rule over the North Solomon Islands, covering Bougainville, Buka, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, the Shortlands and Ontong Java atoll. In 1886 Germany and Britain confirmed this arrangement, with Britain gaining a "sphere of influence" over the southern Solomons. Germany paid little attention to the islands, with German authorities based in New Guinea not even visiting the area until 1888. The German presence, along with pressure from the missionaries to rein in the excesses of the blackbirding system, prompted the British to declare a protectorate over the southern Solomons in March 1893, initially encompassing New Georgia, Malaita, Guadalcanal, Makira, Mono Island and the central Nggela Islands. In April 1896 Charles Morris Woodford was appointed as the British Acting Deputy Commissioner and confirmed in post the following year. Woodford set up an administrative headquarters on the small island of Tulagi, and in 1898 and 1899 the Rennell and Bellona Islands, Sikaiana, the Santa Cruz Islands and outlying islands such as Anuta, Fataka, Temotu and Tikopia were added to the protectorate. In 1900, under the terms of the Tripartite Convention of 1899, Germany ceded the Northern Solomon to Britain, minus Buka and Bougainville, the latter becoming part of German New Guinea despite geographically belonging to the Solomons archipelago.
Woodford's underfunded administration struggled to maintain law and order on the remote colony. In the 1890s/early 1900s there were numerous cases of European settlers being killed by islanders, with the British often retaliating via collective punishment of guilty villages, often by indiscriminately shelling coastal areas from gunboats. The British attempted to encourage plantation settlements, however by 1902 there only about 80 European settlers in the islands. Attempts at economic development met with mixed results, though Levers Pacific Plantations Ltd., a subsidiary of Lever Brothers, managed to establish a profitable copra plantation industry which employed many islanders. Small scale mining and logging industries were also developed. However the colony remained something of backwater, with education, medical and other social services being the preserve of the missionaries. Violence also continued, most notably with the murder of colonial administrator William R. Bell by Basiana of the Kwaio people on Malaita in 1927, as Bell attempted to enforce an unpopular head tax. Several Kwaio were killed in a retaliatory raid, and Basiana and his accomplices executed.
World War II
From 1942 until the end of 1943, the Solomon Islands were the scene of several major land, sea and air battles between the Allies and the Japanese Empire's armed forces. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 war was declared between Japan and the Allied Powers, and the Japanese, seeking to protect their southern flank, invaded South-East Asia and New Guinea. In May 1942 the Japanese launched Operation Mo, occupying Tulagi and most of the western Solomon Islands, including Guadalcanal where they began work on an airstrip. The British administration had already relocated to Auki, Malaita and most of the European population had been evacuated to Australia. The Allies counter-invaded Guadalcanal in August 1942, followed by the New Georgia campaign in 1943, both of which were turning points in the Pacific War, stopping and then countering the Japanese advance. The conflict resulted in thousands of Allied, Japanese and civilian deaths, as well an immense destruction across the islands.
Coastwatchers from the Solomon Islands played a major role in providing intelligence and rescuing other Allied servicemen. U.S. Admiral William Halsey, the commander of Allied forces during the Battle for Guadalcanal, recognised the coastwatchers' contributions by stating "The coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the South Pacific." In addition around 3,200 men served in the Solomon Islands Labour Corps and some 6,000 enlisted in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force, with their exposure to the Americans leading to several social and political transformations. For example, the Americans had extensively developed Honiara, with the capital shifting there from Tulagi in 1952, and the Pijin language was heavily influenced by the communication between Americans and the Islands inhabitants. The relatively easy-going, friendly attitude of the Americans also contrasted sharply with the subservience expected by the British colonial rulers, and profoundly changed Solomons Islanders' attitude to the colonial regime.
American Marines rest during the 1942 Guadalcanal Campaign.
American forces landing at Rendova Island.
The coastwatcher Jacob C. Vouza on Guadalcanal.
Post-war period and the lead-up to independence
In 1943–4 the Malaita-based chief Aliki Nono'ohimae had founded the Maasina Rule movement (aka the Native Council Movement, literally 'Brotherhood Rule'), and was later joined by another chief, Hoasihau. Their aims were to improve the economic well-being native Solomon Islanders, gain greater autonomy and to act as a liaison between Islanders and the colonial administration. The movement was especially popular with ex-Labour Corp members and after the war its numbers swelled, with the movement spreading to other islands. Alarmed at the growth of the movement, the British launched "Operation De-Louse" in 1947–8 and arrested most of the Maasina leaders. Malaitans then organised a campaign of civil disobedience, prompting mass arrests. In 1950 a new Resident Commissioner, Henry Gregory-Smith, arrived and released the leaders of the movement, though the disobedience campaign continued. In 1952 new High Commissioner (later Governor) Robert Stanley met with leaders of the movement and agreed to the creation of an island council. In late 1952 Stanley formally moved the capital of the territory to Honiara. In the early 1950s the possibility of transferring sovereignty of the islands to Australia was discussed by the British and Australian governments, however the Australians were reluctant to accept the financial burden of administraing the territory and the idea was shelved.
With decolonisation sweeping the colonial world, and Britain no longer willing (or able) to bear the financial burdens of the Empire, the colonial authorities sought to prepare the Solomons for self-governance. Appointed Executive and Legislative Councils were established in 1960, with a degree of elected Solomon Islander representation introduced in 1964 and then extended in 1967. A new constitution was drawn up in 1970 which merged the two Councils into one Governing Council, though the British Governor still retained extensive powers. Discontent with this prompted the creation of a new constitution in 1974 which reduced much of the Governor's remaining powers and created the post of Chief Minister, first held by Solomon Mamaloni. Full self-government for the territory was achieved in 1976, a year after the independence of neighbouring Papua New Guinea from Australia. Meanwhile, discontent grew in the Western islands, with many fearing marginalisation in future a Honiara- or Malaita-dominated state, prompting the formation of the Western Breakaway Movement. A conference held in London in 1977 agreed that the Solomons would gain full independence the following year. Under the terms of the Solomon Islands Act 1978 the country was annexed to Her Majesty's dominions and granted independence on 7 July 1978. The first Prime Minister was Sir Peter Kenilorea of the Solomon Islands United Party (SIUP), with Queen Elizabeth II becoming Queen of Solomon Islands, represented locally by a Governor General.
Independence era (1978-present)
Early post-independence years
Peter Kenilorea went on to win the 1980 Solomon Islands general election, serving as PM until 1981, when he was replaced by Solomon Mamaloni of the People's Alliance Party (PAP) after a no confidence vote. Mamaloni created the Central Bank and national airline, and pushed for greater autonomy for individual islands of the country. Kenilorea returned to power after winning the 1984 election, though his second term lasted only two years before he was replaced by Ezekiel Alebua following allegations of misuse of French aid money. In 1986 the Solomons helped found the Melanesian Spearhead Group, aimed at fostering cooperation and trade in the region. After winning the 1989 election Mamaloni and the PAP returned to power, with Mamaloni dominating Solomon Islands politics from the early to mid 1990s (save for the one year Premiership of Francis Billy Hilly). Mamaloni made efforts to make the Solomons a republic, however these were unsuccessful. He also had to deal with the effects of the conflict in neighbouring Bougainville which broke out in 1988, causing many refugees to flee to the Solomons. Tensions arose with Papua New Guinea as PNG forces frequently entered Solomons territory in the pursuit of rebels. The situation calmed down and relations improved following the end of the conflict in 1998. Meanwhile, the country's financial situation continued to deteriorate, with much of the budget coming from the logging industry, often conducted at an unsustainable rate, not helped by Mamaloni's creation of a 'discretionary fund' for use by politicians, which fostered fraud and corruption. Discontent with his rule led to a split in the PAP, and Mamaloni lost the 1993 election to Billy Hilly, though Hilly was later sacked by the Governor-General after a number of defections caused him to lose his majority, allowing Mamloni to return to power in 1994, where he remained until 1997. Excessive logging, government corruption and unsustainable levels of public spending continued to grow, and public discontent caused Mamaloni to lose the 1997 election. The new Prime Minister, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu of the Solomon Islands Liberal Party, attempted to enact economic reforms, however his Premiership soon became engulfed in a serious ethnic conflict known as 'The Tensions'.
Ethnic violence (1998–2003)
Commonly referred to as the tensions or the ethnic tension, the initial civil unrest was mainly characterised by fighting between the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM, also known as the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army and the Isatabu Freedom Fighters) and the Malaita Eagle Force (as well as the Marau Eagle Force). For many years people from the island of Malaita had been migrating to Honiara and Guadalcanal, attracted primarily by the greater economic opportunities available there. The large influx caused tensions with native Guadalcanal islanders (known as Guales), and in late 1998 the IFM was formed and began a campaign of intimidation and violence towards Malaitan settlers. Thousands of Malaitans subsequently fled back to Malaita or to Honiara, and in mid-1999 the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) was established to protect Malaitans on Guadalcanal. In late 1999, after several failed attempts at brokering a peace deal, Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'aluthe declared a four-month state of emergency, and also requested assistance from Australia and New Zealand, but his appeal was rejected. Meanwhile, law and order on Guadalcanal collapsed, with an ethnically divided police unable to assert authority and many of their weapons depots being raided by the militias; by this point the MEF controlled Honiara with the IFM controlling the rest of Guadalacanal.
On 5 June 2000 Ulufa'alu was kidnapped by the MEF who felt that, although he was a Malaitan, he was not doing enough to protect their interests. Ulufa'alu subsequently resigned in exchange for his release. Manasseh Sogavare, who had earlier been Finance Minister in Ulufa'alu's government but had subsequently joined the opposition, was elected as Prime Minister by 23–21 over the Rev. Leslie Boseto. However, Sogavare's election was immediately shrouded in controversy because six MPs (thought to be supporters of Boseto) were unable to attend parliament for the crucial vote. On 15 October 2000 the Townsville Peace Agreement was signed by the MEF, elements of the IFM, and the Solomon Islands Government. This was closely followed by the Marau Peace agreement in February 2001, signed by the Marau Eagle Force, the IFM, the Guadalcanal Provincial Government, and the Solomon Islands Government. However, a key Guale militant leader, Harold Keke, refused to sign the agreement, causing a split with the Guale groups. Subsequently, Guale signatories to the agreement led by Andrew Te'e joined with the Malaitan-dominated police to form the 'Joint Operations Force'. During the next two years the conflict moved to the remote Weathercoast region of southern Guadalcanal as the Joint Operations unsuccessfully attempted to capture Keke and his group.
By early 2001 the economy had collapsed and the government was bankrupt. New elections in December 2001 brought Allan Kemakeza into the Prime Minister's chair, with the support of his People's Alliance Party and the Association of Independent Members. Law and order deteriorated as the nature of the conflict shifted: there was continuing violence on the Weathercoast, whilst militants in Honiara increasingly turned their attention to crime, extortion and banditry. The Department of Finance would often be surrounded by armed men when funding was due to arrive. In December 2002, Finance Minister Laurie Chan resigned after being forced at gunpoint to sign a cheque made out to some of the militants. Conflict also broke out in Western Province between locals and Malaitan settlers. Renegade members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) were invited in as a protection force but ended up causing as much trouble as they prevented. The prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness, widespread extortion, and ineffective police prompted a formal request by the Solomon Islands Government for outside help, a request was unanimously supported in Parliament.
In July 2003, Australian and Pacific Islands police and troops arrived in Solomon Islands under the auspices of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). A sizeable international security contingent of 2,200 police and troops, led by Australia and New Zealand, and with representatives from about 15 other Pacific nations, began arriving the next month under Operation Helpem Fren. The situation improved dramatically, with violence ending and Harold Keke surrendering to the force. Some 200 people had been killed in the conflict. Since this time some commentators have considered the country a failed state, with the nation having failed to build an inclusive national identity capable of overriding local island and ethnic loyalties. However, other academics argue that rather than being a 'failed state', it is an unformed state: a state that never consolidated even after decades of independence. Furthermore, some scholars, such Kabutaulaka (2001) and Dinnen (2002) argue that the 'ethnic conflict' label is an oversimplification.
Kemakeza remained in office until April 2006, when he lost the 2006 Solomon Islands general election and Snyder Rini became PM. However allegations that Rini had used bribes from Chinese businessmen to buy the votes of members of Parliament led to mass rioting in the capital Honiara, concentrated on the city's Chinatown area. A deep underlying resentment against the minority Chinese business community led to much of Chinatown in the city being destroyed. Tensions were also increased by the belief that large sums of money were being exported to China. China sent chartered aircraft to evacuate hundreds of Chinese who fled to avoid the riots. Evacuation of Australian and British citizens was on a much smaller scale. Additional Australian, New Zealand and Fijian police and troops were dispatched to try to quell the unrest. Rini eventually resigned before facing a motion of no-confidence in Parliament, and Parliament elected Manasseh Sogavare as Prime Minister.
Sogavare struggled to assert his authority and was also hostile to the Australian presence in the country; after one failed attempt, he was removed in no confidence vote in 2007 and replaced by Derek Sikua of the Solomon Islands Liberal Party. In 2008 a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to examine and help heal the wounds of the 'tension' years. Sikua lost the 2010 Solomon Islands general election to Danny Philip, though after a vote of no confidence in him following allegations of corruption, Philip was ousted and replaced by Gordon Darcy Lilo. Sogavare returned to power after the 2014 election, and oversaw the withdrawal of RAMSI forces from the country in 2017. Sogavare was ousted in a no confidence vote in 2017, which saw Rick Houenipwela come to power, however Sogavare returned to the Prime Ministership after winning the 2019 election, sparking rioting in Honiara. In 2019 Sogavare announced that the Solomons would be switching recognition from Taiwan to China.
Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy and has a parliamentary system of government. As Queen of Solomon Islands, Elizabeth II is head of state; she is represented by the Governor-General who is chosen by the Parliament for a five-year term. There is a unicameral parliament of 50 members, elected for four-year terms. However, Parliament may be dissolved by majority vote of its members before the completion of its term.
Parliamentary representation is based on single-member constituencies. Suffrage is universal for citizens over age 21. The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is elected by Parliament and chooses the cabinet. Each ministry is headed by a cabinet member, who is assisted by a permanent secretary, a career public servant who directs the staff of the ministry.
Solomon Islands governments are characterised by weak political parties (see List of political parties in Solomon Islands) and highly unstable parliamentary coalitions. They are subject to frequent votes of no confidence, leading to frequent changes in government leadership and cabinet appointments.
Land ownership is reserved for Solomon Islanders. The law provides that resident expatriates, such as the Chinese and Kiribati, may obtain citizenship through naturalisation. Land generally is still held on a family or village basis and may be handed down from mother or father according to local custom. The islanders are reluctant to provide land for nontraditional economic undertakings, and this has resulted in continual disputes over land ownership.
No military forces are maintained by Solomon Islands although a police force of nearly 500 includes a border protection unit. The police also are responsible for fire service, disaster relief, and maritime surveillance. The police force is headed by a commissioner, appointed by the governor-general and responsible to the prime minister. On 27 December 2006, the Solomon Islands Government took steps to prevent the country's Australian police chief from returning to the Pacific nation. On 12 January 2007, Australia replaced its top diplomat expelled from Solomon Islands for political interference in a conciliatory move aimed at easing a four-month dispute between the two countries.
On 13 December 2007, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was toppled by a vote of no confidence in Parliament, following the defection of five ministers to the opposition. It was the first time a prime minister had lost office in this way in Solomon Islands. On 20 December, Parliament elected the opposition's candidate (and former Minister for Education) Derek Sikua as Prime Minister, in a vote of 32 to 15.
The Governor General appoints the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Governor General appoints the other justices with the advice of a judicial commission. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (based in the United Kingdom) serves as the highest appellate court.[contradictory] The current Chief Justice is Sir Albert Palmer.
Since March 2014 Justice Edwin Goldsbrough has served as the President of the Court of Appeal for Solomon Islands. Justice Goldsbrough has previously served a five-year term as a Judge of the High Court of Solomon Islands (2006–2011). Justice Edwin Goldsbrough then served as the Chief Justice of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Solomon Islands is a member of the United Nations, Interpol, Commonwealth, Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific Community, International Monetary Fund, and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries (ACP) (Lomé Convention).
Until September 2019, it was one of the few countries to recognise the Republic of China (Taiwan) and maintain formal diplomatic relations with the latter. Relations with Papua New Guinea, which had become strained because of an influx of refugees from the Bougainville rebellion and attacks on the northern islands of Solomon Islands by elements pursuing Bougainvillean rebels, have been repaired. A 1998 peace accord on Bougainville removed the armed threat, and the two nations regularised border operations in a 2004 agreement.
In March 2017, at the 34th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, Vanuatu made a joint statement on behalf of Solomon Islands and some other Pacific nations raising human rights violations in the Western New Guinea, which has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963, and requested that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights produce a report. Indonesia rejected Vanuatu's allegations. More than 100,000 Papuans have died during a 50-year Papua conflict. In September 2017, at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, the Prime Ministers of the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu once again raised human rights abuses in Indonesian-occupied West Papua.
Although the locally recruited British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defence Force was part of Allied Forces taking part in fighting in the Solomons during the Second World War, the country has not had any regular military forces since independence. The various paramilitary elements of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) were disbanded and disarmed in 2003 following the intervention of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). RAMSI has a small military detachment headed by an Australian commander with responsibilities for assisting the police element of RAMSI in internal and external security. The RSIPF still operates two Pacific class patrol boats (RSIPV Auki and RSIPV Lata), which constitute the de facto navy of Solomon Islands.
In the long term, it is anticipated that the RSIPF will resume the defence role of the country. The police force is headed by a commissioner, appointed by the governor general and responsible to the Minister of Police, National Security & Correctional Services.
The police budget of Solomon Islands has been strained due to a four-year civil war. Following Cyclone Zoe's strike on the islands of Tikopia and Anuta in December 2002, Australia had to provide the Solomon Islands government with 200,000 Solomon dollars ($50,000 Australian) for fuel and supplies for the patrol boat Lata to sail with relief supplies. (Part of the work of RAMSI includes assisting the Solomon Islands government to stabilise its budget.)
For local government, the country is divided into ten administrative areas, of which nine are provinces administered by elected provincial assemblies and the tenth is the capital Honiara, administered by the Honiara Town Council.
per km2 (2009)
|1||Central Province||Tulagi||Patrick Vasuni||615||21,577||42.4||26,051|
|2||Choiseul Province||Taro Island||Jackson Kiloe||3,837||20,008||6.9||26,371|
|3||Guadalcanal Province||Honiara||Anthony Veke||5,336||60,275||17.5||93,613|
|4||Isabel Province||Buala||James Habu||4,136||20,421||6.3||26,158|
|5||Makira-Ulawa Province||Kirakira||Stanley Siapu||3,188||31,006||12.7||40,419|
|6||Malaita Province||Auki||Peter Ramohia||4,225||122,620||32.6||137,596|
|7||Rennell and Bellona Province||Tigoa||George Tuhaika||671||2,377||4.5||3,041|
|8||Temotu Province||Lata||Fr. Charles Brown Beu||895||18,912||23.9||21,362|
|9||Western Province||Gizo||David Gina||5,475||62,739||14.0||76,649|
|–||Capital Territory||Honiara||Mua (Mayor)||22||49,107||2,936.8||64,609|
 excluding the Capital Territory of Honiara
There are human rights concerns and issues in regards to education, water, sanitation, gender equality, and domestic violence.
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Solomon Islands is an island nation that lies east of Papua New Guinea and consists of many islands: Choiseul, the Shortland Islands; the New Georgia Islands; Santa Isabel; the Russell Islands; Nggela (the Florida Islands); Malaita; Guadalcanal; Sikaiana; Maramasike; Ulawa; Uki; Makira (San Cristobal); Santa Ana; Rennell and Bellona; the Santa Cruz Islands and the remote, tiny outliers, Tikopia, Anuta, and Fatutaka.
The country's islands lie between latitudes 5° and 13°S, and longitudes 155° and 169°E. The distance between the westernmost and easternmost islands is about 1,500 kilometres (930 mi). The Santa Cruz Islands (of which Tikopia is part) are situated north of Vanuatu and are especially isolated at more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) from the other islands. Bougainville is geographically part of the Solomon Islands archipelago but politically part of Papua New Guinea.
The islands' ocean-equatorial climate is extremely humid throughout the year, with a mean temperature of 26.5 °C (79.7 °F) and few extremes of temperature or weather. June through August is the cooler period. Though seasons are not pronounced, the northwesterly winds of November through April bring more frequent rainfall and occasional squalls or cyclones. The annual rainfall is about 3,050 millimetres (120 in).
The Solomon Islands archipelago is part of two distinct terrestrial ecoregions. Most of the islands are part of the Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion, which also includes the islands of Bougainville and Buka; these forests have come under pressure from forestry activities. The Santa Cruz Islands are part of the Vanuatu rain forests ecoregion, together with the neighbouring archipelago of Vanuatu. Soil quality ranges from extremely rich volcanic (there are volcanoes with varying degrees of activity on some of the larger islands) to relatively infertile limestone. More than 230 varieties of orchids and other tropical flowers brighten the landscape. Mammals are scarce on the islands, with the only terrestrial mammals being bats and small rodents. Birds and reptiles, however, are abundant.
The islands contain several active and dormant volcanoes. The Tinakula and Kavachi volcanoes are the most active.
Water and sanitation
See also: Human rights in Solomon Islands
Scarcity of fresh water sources and lack of sanitation has been a constant challenge facing Solomon Islands. Reducing the number of those living without access to fresh water and sanitation by half was one of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) implemented by the United Nations through Goal 7, to ensure environmental sustainability. Though the islands generally have access to fresh water sources, it is typically only available in the state's capital of Honiara, and it is not guaranteed all year long. According to a UNICEF report, even the capital's poorest communities do not have access to adequate places to relieve their waste, and an estimated 70% Solomon Island schools have no access to safe and clean water for drinking, washing and relieving of waste. Lack of safe drinking water in school-age children results in high risks of contracting fatal diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The number of Solomon Islanders living with piped drinking water has been decreasing since 2011, while those living with non-piped water increased between 2000 and 2010. Nevertheless, one improvement is that those living with non-piped water has been decreasing consistently since 2011.
In addition, the Solomon Islands Second Rural Development Program, enacted in 2014 and active until 2020, has been working to deliver competent infrastructure and other vital services to rural areas and villages of the Solomon Islands, which suffer the most from lack of safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Through improved infrastructure, services and resources, the program has also encouraged farmers and other agricultural sectors, through community-driven efforts, to connect them to the market, thus promoting economic growth. Rural villages such as Bolava, found in the Western Province of Solomon Islands, have benefited greatly from the program, with the implementation of water tanks and rain catchment and water storage systems. Not only has the improved infrastructure increased the quality of life in Solomon Islands, the services are also operated and developed by the community, thus creating a sense of communal pride and achievement among those previously living in hazardous conditions. The program is funded by various international development actors such as the World Bank, European Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Australian and Solomon Islands governments.
On 2 April 2007 at 07:39:56 local time (UTC+11) an earthquake with magnitude 8.1 occurred at hypocenter S8.453 E156.957, 349 kilometres (217 miles) northwest of the island's capital, Honiara and south-east of the capital of Western Province, Gizo, at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles). More than 44 aftershocks with magnitude 5.0 or greater occurred up until 22:00:00 UTC, Wednesday, 4 April 2007. A tsunami followed killing at least 52 people, destroying more than 900 homes and leaving thousands of people homeless. Land upthrust extended the shoreline of one island, Ranongga, by up to 70 metres (230 ft) exposing many once pristine coral reefs.
On 6 February 2013, an earthquake with magnitude of 8.0 occurred at epicentre S10.80 E165.11 in the Santa Cruz Islands followed by a tsunami up to 1.5 metres. At least nine people were killed and many houses demolished. The main quake was preceded by a sequence of earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 6.0.
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Solomon Islands' per-capita GDP of $600 ranks it as a lesser developed nation, and more than 75% of its labour force is engaged in subsistence agriculture and fishing. Most manufactured goods and petroleum products must be imported. Only 3.9% of the area of the islands are used for agriculture, and 78.1% are covered by forests making the Solomon Islands the 103th ranked country covered by forests worldwide.
Until 1998, when world prices for tropical timber fell steeply, timber was Solomon Islands' main export product, and, in recent years, Solomon Islands forests were dangerously overexploited. In the wake of the ethnic violence in June 2000, exports of palm oil and gold ceased while exports of timber fell. Recently,[when?] Solomon Islands courts have re-approved the export of live dolphins for profit, most recently to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This practice was originally stopped by the government in 2004 after international uproar over a shipment of 28 live dolphins to Mexico. The move resulted in criticism from both Australia and New Zealand as well as several conservation organisations.
Other important cash crops and exports include copra, cacao and palm oil. In 2017 317,682 tons of coconuts were harvested making the country the 18th ranked producer of coconuts worldwide, and 24% of the exports corresponded to copra. Cocoa beans are mainly grown on the islands Guadalcanal, Makira and Malaita. In 2017 4,940 tons of cocoa beans were harvested making the Solomon Islands the 27th ranked producer of cocoa worldwide. Growth of production and export of copra and cacao, however, is hampered by old age of most coconut and cacao trees. In 2017 285,721 tons of palm oil were produced,making Solomon Islands the 24th ranked producer of palm oil worldwide. The agriculture on the Solomon Islands is hampered by a very severe lack of agricultural machines. For the local market but not for export many families grow taro (2017: 45,901 tons), rice (2017: 2,789 tons), yams (2017: 44,940 tons) and bananas (2017: 313 tons). Tobacco (2017: 118 tons) and spices (2017: 217 tons). are grown for the local market as well.
In 1998 gold mining began at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. Minerals exploration in other areas continued. The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. Negotiations are underway that may lead to the eventual reopening of the Gold Ridge mine which was closed after the riots in 2006.
Solomon Islands' fisheries also offer prospects for export and domestic economic expansion. A Japanese joint venture, Solomon Taiyo Ltd., which operated the only fish cannery in the country, closed in mid-2000 as a result of the ethnic disturbances. Though the plant has reopened under local management, the export of tuna has not resumed.
Tourism, particularly diving, could become an important service industry for Solomon Islands. Tourism growth, however, is hampered by lack of infrastructure and transportation limitations. In 2017 the Solomon Islands were visited by 26,000 tourists making the country one of the least frequently-visited countries of the world. The Government hopes to increase the number of tourists up to 30,000 by the end of 2019 and up to 60,000 tourists per year by the end of 2025.
The Solomon Islands dollar (ISO 4217 code: SBD) was introduced in 1977, replacing the Australian dollar at par. Its symbol is "SI$", but the "SI" prefix may be omitted if there is no confusion with other currencies also using the dollar sign "$". It is subdivided into 100 cents. Local shell money is still important for traditional and ceremonial purposes in certain provinces and, in some remote parts of the country, for trade. Shell money was a widely used traditional currency in the Pacific Islands, in Solomon Islands, it is mostly manufactured in Malaita and Guadalcanal but can be bought elsewhere, such as the Honiara Central Market. The barter system often replaces money of any kind in remote areas. The Solomon Islands Government was insolvent by 2002. Since the RAMSI intervention in 2003, the government has recast its budget. It has consolidated and renegotiated its domestic debt and with Australian backing, is now seeking to renegotiate its foreign obligations. Principal aid donors are Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Japan and Taiwan.
A team of renewable energy developers working for the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and funded by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), have developed a scheme that allows local communities to access renewable energy, such as solar, water and wind power, without the need to raise substantial sums of cash. Under the scheme, islanders who are unable to pay for solar lanterns in cash may pay instead in kind with crops.
Solomon Airlines connects Honiara to Nadi in Fiji, Port Vila in Vanuatu and Brisbane in Australia as well as to more than 20 domestic airports in each province of the country. To promote tourism Solomon Airlines introduced a weekly direct flight connection between Brisbane and Munda in 2019. Virgin Australia connects Honiara to Brisbane twice a week. Most of the domestic airports are accessible to small planes only as they have short, grass runways.
The road system in Solomon Islands is insufficient and there are no railways. The most important roads connect Honiara to Lambi (58 km) in the western part of Guadalcanal and to Aola (75 km) in the eastern part. There are few buses and these do not circulate according to a fixed timetable. In Honiara there is no bus terminus. The most important bus stop is in front of the Central Market.
Most of the islands can be reached by ferry from Honiara. There is a daily connection from Honiara to Auki via Tulagi by a high speed catamaran.
While English is the official language, only 1–2% of the population are able to communicate fluently in English. However, an English creole, Solomons Pijin, is a de facto lingua franca of the country spoken by the majority of the population, along with local tribal languages. Pijin is closely related to Tok Pisin spoken in Papua New Guinea.
The number of local languages listed for Solomon Islands is 74, of which 70 are living languages and 4 are extinct, according to Ethnologue, Languages of the World. Western Oceanic languages (predominantly of the Southeast Solomonic group) are spoken on the central islands. Polynesian languages are spoken on Rennell and Bellona to the south, Tikopia, Anuta and Fatutaka to the far east, Sikaiana to the north east, and Luaniua to the north (Ontong Java Atoll, also known as Lord Howe Atoll). The immigrant population of Gilbertese (I-Kiribati) speaks an Oceanic language.
The religion of Solomon Islands is mainly Christian (comprising about 92% of the population). The main Christian denominations are: the Anglican Church of Melanesia (35%), Catholic Church (19%), South Seas Evangelical Church (17%), United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (11%) and Seventh-day Adventist (10%). Other Christian denominations are Jehovah's Witnesses, New Apostolic Church (80 churches) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Another 5% adhere to aboriginal beliefs. The remaining adhere to Islam, the Baháʼí Faith. According to the most recent reports, Islam in Solomon Islands is made up of approximately 350 Muslims, including members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Female life expectancy at birth was at 66.7 years and male life expectancy at birth at 64.9 in 2007. 1990–1995 fertility rate was at 5.5 births per woman. Government expenditure on health per capita was at US$99 (PPP). Healthy life expectancy at birth is at 60 years.
Blond hair occurs in 10% of the population in the islands. After years of questions, studies have resulted in the better understanding of the blond gene. The findings show that the blond hair trait is due to an amino acid change of protein TYRP1. This accounts for the highest occurrence of blond hair outside of European influence in the world. While 10% of Solomon Islanders display the blond phenotype, about 26% of the population carry the recessive trait for it as well.
About 35% deaths occurred in 2008 due to communicable diseases and maternal, perinatal, and nutritional conditions. Solomon Islands had 13 cumulative HIV cases from 1994 to 2009 and between 2000 and 2011 confirmed malaria cases decreased steadily. In 2017 lower respiratory infections accounted for 11.18%, neonatal disorders for 3.59%, STI (excluding HIV) for 2.9% of total deaths.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are prime causes of deaths in pacific islands, responsible for 60% deaths in Solomon Islands. Premature mortality from NCDs was 1900 in 2016. Ischemic heart disease, stroke and diabetes were the main causes of mortality due to NCDs in 2017.
Sustainable development goals and Solomon Islands
Over last two decades Solomon Islands has achieved many goals in health outcomes and moving towards fulfilling universal health coverage. Identifying and treating NCDs, addressing manpower shortage in health sector, improving the availability of treatment facilities in all health care centers are the new priorities of Solomon Islands.
Education in Solomon Islands is not compulsory, and only 60 percent of school-age children have access to primary education. There are kindergartens in various places, e.g. in the capital, but they are not free.
From 1990 to 1994, the gross primary school enrolment rose from 84.5 percent to 96.6 percent. Primary school attendance rates were unavailable for Solomon Islands as of 2001. While enrolment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children's participation in school. The Department of Education and Human Resource Development efforts and plans to expand educational facilities and increase enrolment. However, these actions have been hindered by a lack of government funding, misguided teacher training programs, poor co-ordination of programs, and a failure of the government to pay teachers. The percentage of the government's budget allocated to education was 9.7 percent in 1998, down from 13.2 percent in 1990. Male educational attainment tends to be higher than female educational attainment. The University of the South Pacific has a Campus at Guadalcanal as a foothold in the country while this University has established by Papua New Guinea. The literacy rate of the adult population amounted to 84.1% in 2015 (men 88,9%, women 79,23%).
The culture of Solomon Islands reflects the extent of the differentiation and diversity among the groups living within the Solomon Islands archipelago, which lies within Melanesia in the Pacific Ocean, with the peoples distinguished by island, language, topography, and geography. The cultural area includes the nation state of Solomon Islands and the Bougainville Island, which is a part of Papua New Guinea. Solomon Islands includes some culturally Polynesian societies which lie outside the main region of Polynesian influence, known as the Polynesian Triangle. There are seven Polynesian outliers within the Solomon Islands: Anuta, Bellona, Ontong Java, Rennell, Sikaiana, Tikopia, and Vaeakau-Taumako. Solomon Islands arts and crafts cover a wide range of woven objects, carved wood, stone and shell artefacts in styles specific to different provinces. :
Gender inequality and domestic violence
Solomon Islands has one of the highest rates of family and sexual violence (FSV) in the world, with 64% of women aged 15–49 having reported physical and/or sexual abuse by a partner. As per a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued in 2011, "the causes of Gender Based Violence (GBV) are multiple, but it primarily stems from gender inequality and its manifestations." The report stated:
- "In Solomon Islands, GBV has been largely normalized: 73% of men and 73% of women believe violence against women is justifiable, especially for infidelity and 'disobedience,' as when women do 'not live up to the gender roles that society imposes.' For example, women who believed they could occasionally refuse sex were four times more likely to experience GBV from an intimate partner. Men cited acceptability of violence and gender inequality as two main reasons for GBV, and almost all of them reported hitting their female partners as a 'form of discipline,' suggesting that women could improve the situation by '[learning] to obey [them].'"
Another manifestation and driver of gender inequality in Solomon Islands is the traditional practice of bride price. Although specific customs vary between communities, paying a bride price is considered similar to a property title, giving men ownership over women. Gender norms of masculinity tend to encourage men to "control" their wives, often through violence, while women felt that bride prices prevented them from leaving men. Another report issued by the WHO in 2013 painted a similarly grim picture.
In 2014, Solomon Islands officially launched the Family Protection Act 2014, which was aimed at curbing domestic violence in the country. While numerous other interventions are being developed and implemented in the healthcare system as well as the criminal justice system, these interventions are still in their infancy and have largely stemmed from Western protocols. Therefore, for these models to be effective, time and commitment is needed to change the cultural perception of domestic violence in Solomon Islands.
Writers from Solomon Islands include the novelists Rexford Orotaloa and John Saunana and the poet Jully Makini.
There is one daily newspaper, the Solomon Star, one daily online news website, Solomon Times Online (www.solomontimes.com), two weekly papers, Solomons Voice and Solomon Times, and two monthly papers, Agrikalsa Nius and the Citizen's Press.
Radio is the most influential type of media in Solomon Islands due to language differences, illiteracy, and the difficulty of receiving television signals in some parts of the country. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) operates public radio services, including the national stations Radio Happy Isles 1037 on the dial and Wantok FM 96.3, and the provincial stations Radio Happy Lagoon and, formerly, Radio Temotu. There are two commercial FM stations, Z FM at 99.5 in Honiara but receivable over a large majority of island out from Honiara, and, PAOA FM at 97.7 in Honiara (also broadcasting on 107.5 in Auki), and, one community FM radio station, Gold Ridge FM on 88.7.
There are no TV services that cover the entire Solomon Islands but are available in six main centres in four of the nine Provinces. Satellite TV stations can be received. In Honiara, there is a free-to-air HD digital, analogue TV and online service called Telekom Television Limited, operated by Solomon Telekom Co. Ltd.. and rebroadcast a number of regional and international TV services including ABC Australia and BBC World News. Residents can also subscribe to SATSOL, a digital pay TV service, re-transmitting satellite television.
Traditional Melanesian music in Solomon Islands includes both group and solo vocals, slit-drum and panpipe ensembles. Bamboo music gained a following in the 1920s. In the 1950s Edwin Nanau Sitori composed the song "Walkabout long Chinatown", which has been referred to by the government as the unofficial "national song" of the Solomon Islands. Modern Solomon Islander popular music includes various kinds of rock and reggae as well as island music.
Rugby union: The Solomon Islands national rugby union team has played internationals since 1969. It took part in the Oceania qualifying tournament for the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, but did not qualify on either occasion.
Association football: The Solomon Islands national football team has proved among the most successful in Oceania and is part of the OFC confederation in FIFA. They are currently ranked 141st out of 210 teams in the FIFA World Rankings. The team became the first team to beat New Zealand in qualifying for a play-off spot against Australia for qualification to the World Cup 2006. They were defeated 7–0 in Australia and 2–1 at home.
Futsal: Closely related to Association Football. On 14 June 2008, the Solomon Islands national futsal team, the Kurukuru, won the Oceania Futsal Championship in Fiji to qualify them for the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup, which was held in Brazil from 30 September to 19 October 2008. Solomon Islands is the futsal defending champions in the Oceania region. In 2008 and 2009 the Kurukuru won the Oceania Futsal Championship in Fiji. In 2009 they defeated the host nation Fiji 8–0 to claim the title. The Kurukuru currently hold the world record for the fastest ever goal scored in an official futsal match. It was set by Kurukuru captain Elliot Ragomo, who scored against New Caledonia three seconds into the game in July 2009. They also, however, hold the less enviable record for the worst defeat in the history of the Futsal World Cup,[clarification needed] when in 2008 they were beaten by Russia with two goals to thirty-one.
Beach soccer: The Solomon Islands national beach soccer team, the Bilikiki Boys, are statistically the most successful team in Oceania. They have won all three regional championships to date, thereby qualifying on each occasion for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The Bilikiki Boys are ranked fourteenth in the world as of 2010[update], higher than any other team from Oceania.
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