Magazine article New Internationalist

Solomon Islands

Magazine article New Internationalist

Solomon Islands

Article excerpt

THE Solomon Islands and its largest island, Guadalcanal, may be known to fans of Hollywood movies as the site of one of the key battles in the Pacific during World War Two. A British colony between the two world wars, the Solomons were invaded by the Japanese in 1942. Recaptured by the Americans after a six-month battle, the islands were finally granted independence in July 1978. The US provided much initial aid to the Solomons, but now Japan has a much greater influence, providing 40 per cent of the country's aid.

There are six main islands, each containing a large number of small villages-over half the population live in communities of fewer than 200 people, and most of these still practise subsistence farming. The isolation of the villages has fostered the development of over 80 distinct languages. The extended family system is strongly adhered to in a society as yet untouched by broadcast television-though video cinema is popular in towns.

Solomon Island politics are characterized by personalities rather than political parties. In October 1994, after just 16 months as Prime Minister, Francis Billy Hilly resigned amid a political crisis. Early in November Solomon Mamaloni, twice in power in the 1980s, was once again elected Prime Minister.

Mamaloni has an economic and environmental crisis on his hands. In recent years the largest export earner has been timber supplied mainly to Japan. But since 1992 logging rates have doubled to four times the sustainable level-environmentalists have calculated that, if current logging rates continue, the forest will be totally wiped out by the end of the decade. …

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