Solomon Islands Information
Coat of arms
Motto: "To Lead is to Serve"
Anthem: God Save Our Solomon Islands
Capital (and largest city) Honiara
Official language(s) English
Demonym Solomon Islander
Governor General Frank Kabui
Prime Minister Danny Philip
the United Kingdom 7 July 1978
2009 estimate 523,000 (170th)
Total $1.514 billion
Per capita $2,818
Currency Solomon Islands dollar (SBD)
Time zone (UTC+11)
Internet TLD .sb
Calling code 677
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of
Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand
islands. It covers a land mass of 28,400 square
kilometres (10,965 square miles).
The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of
The Solomon Islands are believed to have been
inhabited by Melanesian people for many thousands of
years. Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendaña discovered
the islands in 1568 and named them Islas Salomon. The
United Kingdom established a protectorate over the
Solomon Islands in 1893.
In the Second World War there was fierce fighting
between the Americans and the Japanese in the Solomon
Islands campaign of 1942–45, including the Battle of
Self-government was achieved in 1976 and independence
two years later.
The Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy with
the Queen of the Solomon Islands, at present Elizabeth
II, as the head of state.
Danny Philip is the tenth and current Prime Minister of
the Solomon Islands. He was elected on August 2010.
The country's official name, as established in the
Constitution of Solomon Islands and as used by
government as well as by the country's press, is
"Solomon Islands", with no definite article.
It is believed that Papuan speaking settlers began to
arrive around 30,000 BC. Austronesian speakers arrived
c. 4000 BC also bringing cultural elements such as the
outrigger canoe. It is between 1200 and 800 BC that
the ancestors of the Polynesians, the Lapita people,
arrived from the Bismarck Archipelago with their
The first European to visit the islands was the Spanish
navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, coming from Peru
in 1568. The people of Solomon Islands were notorious
for headhunting and cannibalism before the arrival of
Missionaries began visiting the Solomons in the mid-19th
century. They made little progress at first, because
"blackbirding" (the often brutal recruitment of
labourers for the sugar plantations in Queensland and
Fiji) led to a series of reprisals and massacres. The
evils of the labour trade prompted the United Kingdom
to declare a protectorate over the southern Solomons in
June 1893. This was the basis of the British Solomon
In 1898 and 1899, more outlying islands were added to
the protectorate; in 1900 the remainder of the
archipelago, an area previously under German
jurisdiction, was transferred to British administration
apart from the islands of Buka and Bougainville, which
remained under German administration as part of
German New Guinea. Traditional trade and social
intercourse between the western Solomon Islands of
Mono and Alu (the Shortlands) and the traditional
societies in the south of Bougainville, however,
continued without hindrance.
Under the protectorate, missionaries settled in the
Solomons, converting most of the population to
Christianity. In the early 20th century, several British
and Australian firms began large-scale coconut planting.
Economic growth was slow, however, and the islanders
Second World War
With the outbreak of the Second World War, most
planters and traders were evacuated to Australia, and
most cultivation ceased. Some of the most intense
fighting of the war occurred in the Solomons. The most
significant of the Allied Forces' operations against the
Japanese Imperial Forces was launched on August 7,
1942, with simultaneous naval bombardments and
amphibious landings on the Florida Islands at Tulagi and
Red Beach on Guadalcanal.
The Battle of Guadalcanal became an important and
bloody campaign fought in the Pacific War as the Allies
began to repulse Japanese expansion. Of strategic
importance during the war were the coastwatchers
operating in remote locations, often on Japanese held
islands, providing early warning and intelligence of
Japanese naval, army and aircraft movements during the
Sergeant-Major Jacob Vouza was a notable
coastwatcher who after capture refused to divulge
Allied information in spite of interrogation and torture
by Japanese Imperial forces. He was awarded a Silver
Star by the Americans.
Islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana would be noted
by National Geographic for being the first to find the
shipwrecked John F. Kennedy and his crew of the PT-
109. They suggested using a coconut to write a rescue
message for delivery by dugout canoe, which was later
kept on his desk when he became the president of the
The Solomon Islands was one of the major staging areas
of the South Pacific and was home to the famous VMF-
214 "Black Sheep" Squadron commanded by Major Greg
The Slot was a name for New Georgia Sound, when it
was used by the Tokyo Express to supply the Japanese
garrison on Guadalcanal. Of more than 36,000 Japanese
on Guadalcanal, about 26,000 were killed or missing,
9,000 died of disease, and 1,000 were captured.
Local councils were established in the 1950s as the
islands stabilised from the aftermath of the Second
World War. A new constitution was established in 1970
and elections were held, although the constitution was
contested and a new one was created in 1974. In 1973
the first oil price shock occurred, the increased cost of
running a colony became apparent to British
Following the independence of neighbouring Papua New
Guinea from Australia in 1975, the Solomon Islands
gained self government in 1976. Independence was
granted on 7 July 1978.
The first Prime Minister was Sir Peter Kenilorea, and
the Solomon Islands retained the Monarchy.
Commonly referred to as the tensions or the ethnic
tension, the initial civil unrest was mainly characterised
by fighting between the Isatabu Freedom Movement
(also known as the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army) and
the Malaita Eagle Force (as well as the Marau Eagle
Force). (Although much of the conflict was between
Guales and Malaitans, Kabutaulaka (2001) and Dinnen
(2002) argue that the 'ethnic conflict' label is an
In late 1998, militants on the island of Guadalcanal
commenced and had a campaign of intimidation and
violence towards Malaitan settlers. During the next
year, thousands of Malaitans fled back to Malaita or to
the capital, Honiara (which, although situated on
Guadalcanal, is predominantly populated by Malaitans and
Solomon Islanders from other provinces). In 1999, the
Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) was established in response.
The reformist government of Bartholomew Ulufa'alu
struggled to respond to the complexities of this evolving
conflict. In late 1999, the government declared a four
month state of emergency. There were also a number of
attempts at reconciliation ceremonies but to no avail.
He also requested assistance from Australia and New
Zealand in 1999 but this was rejected.
In June 2000, Ulufa'alu was kidnapped by militia
members of 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 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.
In October 2000, the Townsville Peace Agreement, was
signed by the Malaita Eagle Force, 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 Isatabu
Freedom Movement, 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
Weathercoast of Guadalcanal as the Joint Operations
unsuccessfully attempted to capture Keke and his group.
New elections in December 2001 brought Sir Allan
Kemakeza into the Prime Minister's chair with the
support of his People's Alliance Party and also the
Association of Independent Members. Law and order
deteriorated as the nature of the conflict shifted:
there was continuing violence on the Weathercoast while
militants in Honiara increasingly turned their attention
to crime and extortion. 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. With the country bankrupt and the capital in chaos,
the request was unanimously supported in Parliament.
In July 2003, Australian and Pacific Island police and
troops arrived in the Solomon Islands under the
auspices of the Australian-led Regional Assistance
Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). A sizable
international security contingent of 2,200 police and
troops, led by Australia and New Zealand, and with
representatives from about 20 other Pacific nations
began arriving the next month under Operation
Since this time some commentators have considered
the country a failed state. However, other academics
argue that rather than being a 'failed state', it is an
unformed state: a state that never consolidated after
decades since independence.
In April 2006, allegations that the newly elected
Prime Minister Snyder Rini had used bribes from
Chinese businessmen to buy the votes of members of
Parliament led to mass rioting in the capital Honiara. A
deep underlying resentment against the minority
Chinese business community led to much of Chinatown
in the city being destroyed. Tensions had also been
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. Further 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
2007 earthquake and tsunami
On 2 April 2007, the Solomon Islands were struck by
a major earthquake followed by a large tsunami. Initial
reports indicated that the tsunami, which mainly
affected the small island of Gizo, was several metres
high (perhaps as high as 10 metres (33 ft) according to
some reports, 5 metres (16 1/3 ft) according to the
Foreign Office). The tsunami was triggered by an 8.1
magnitude earthquake, with a hypocenter 217 miles
(349 km) northwest of the island's capital, Honiara, at
Lat −8.453 Long 156.957 and at a depth of 10
kilometres (6.2 miles).
According to the United States Geologic Survey the
earthquake struck at 20:39:56 UTC on Sunday, 1 April
2007. Since the initial event and up until 22:00:00
UTC on Wednesday, 4 April 2007, more than 44
aftershocks of a magnitude of 5.0 or greater were
recorded in the region.
The death toll from the resulting tsunami was at least
52 people, and the tsunami destroyed more than 900
homes and has left thousands of people homeless.
Land thrust from the quake has extended out from
the shoreline of one island, Ranongga, by up to 70
meters (230 ft) according to local residents. This has
left many once pristine coral reefs exposed on the
newly formed beaches.
The Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy and
has a parliamentary system of government. Queen
Elizabeth II is the Monarch of the Solomon Islands
and the 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-
Suffrage is universal for citizens over age 21.
The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is
elected by Parliament and chooses the other members
of 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 characterized by
weak political parties and highly unstable
parliamentary coalitions. They are subject to frequent
votes of no confidence, and government leadership
changes frequently as a result. Cabinet changes are
Land ownership is reserved for Solomon Islanders.
The law provides that resident expatriates, such as
the Chinese and Kiribati, may obtain citizenship
through naturalization. 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 the 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 said it had taken 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 the Solomon Islands
for political interference in a conciliatory move aimed
at easing a four-month dispute between the two
On 11 July 2007, the Solomon Islands swore in Julian
Moti as their Attorney General. Moti is currently
wanted in Australia for child-related sex offences.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard called the
move "quite extraordinary". Australia's Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer has described the country
as the "laughing stock" of the civilised world. However,
the Australian charges against Moti relate to events in
Vanuatu, and parallel charges that the courts in
Vanuatu dismissed in the 1990s. Julian Moti has
attracted Australian attention because he advised the
Solomons Government to inquire into the role of
Australian police in provoking the 2006 Honiara riots.
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 lost office in this way in the Solomon Islands.
On 20 December, Parliament elected the Opposition's
candidate (and former Minister for Education) Derek
Sikua as Prime Minister, with 32 votes to 15.
For local government, the country is divided into 10
administrative areas, of which nine are provinces
administered by elected provincial assemblies, and the
10th is the town of Honiara, administered by the
Honiara Town Council.
7. Rennell and Bellona
10. Honiara City
The 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
three remote, tiny outliers, Tikopia, Anuta, and
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, but politically Papua New Guinea.
The islands' ocean-equatorial climate is extremely
humid throughout the year, with a mean temperature
of 27 °C (80 °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 3050 mm (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, which are part of Papua New
Guinea, these forests have come under pressure from
forestry activities. The Santa Cruz Islands are part
of the Vanuatu rain forests ecoregion, together with
the neighboring 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.
The islands contain several active and dormant
volcanoes. The Tinakula and Kavachi volcanoes are the
Its per capita GDP of $600 ranks Solomon Islands as
a lesser developed nation, and more than 75% of its
labor force is engaged in subsistence and fishing. Most
manufactured goods and petroleum products must be
imported. 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. Other
important cash crops and exports include copra and
palm oil. In 1998 Ross Mining of Australia began
producing gold at Gold Ridge on Guadalcanal. Minerals
exploration in other areas continued. However in the
wake of the ethnic violence in June 2000, exports of
palm oil and gold ceased while exports of timber fell.
The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources
such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold.
Solomon Islands' fisheries also offer prospects for
export and domestic economic expansion. However, 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.
Negotiations are underway that may lead to the
eventual reopening of the Gold Ridge mine and the
major oil-palm plantation.
Tourism, particularly diving, is an important service
industry for Solomon Islands. Growth in that industry
is hampered, however, by lack of infrastructure and
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 the
Republic of China.
Recently, the Solomons 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 has resulted in criticism
from both Australia and New Zealand as well as
several conservation organisations.
As of 2006, the majority 552,438 people on the
Solomon Islands are ethnically Melanesian (94.5%).
Polynesian (3%) and Micronesian (1.2%) are the two
other significant groups. There are a few thousand
The number of local languages listed for Solomon
Islands is 74, of which 70 are living languages and 4
are extinct, On the central islands, Melanesian
languages (predominantly of the Southeast Solomonic
group) are spoken. On the outliers, 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), Polynesian languages are spoken. Immigrant
populations of Gilbertese (i-Kiribati) and Tuvaluans
speak Micronesian languages. While English is the
official language, only 1–2% of the population speak
English; the lingua franca is Solomons Pijin.
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
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