|THE SOLOMON ISLANDS COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Solomon Islands within the Geographic Region of Oceania
Map of Solomon Islands
Flag Description of Solomon Islands:The flag of the Solomon Islands was officially adopted on November 18, 1977.
The five white stars represent the five main island groups. Blue is said to represent the surrounding ocean; green represents the land, and the yellow stripe is symbolic of sunshine.
Official name Solomon Islands
Form of government constitutional monarchy with one legislative house (National Parliament )
Head of state British Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General: Sir Frank Kabui
Head of government Prime Minister: Manasseh D. Sogavare
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Solomon Islands dollar (SI$)
Population (2013 est.) 604,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 10,954
Total area (sq km) 28,370
- Urban: (2011) 20.5%
- Rural: (2011) 79.5%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 71.8 years
- Female: (2012) 77.1 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2009) 88.9%
- Female: (2009) 79.2%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) 2013) 1,610
Background of Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands, 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 and Bougainville, two islands at the northwestern end that form an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea. Honiara, on Guadalcanal Island, is Solomon Islands’ capital and largest city.
Geography of Solomon Islands
The main islands of the group are large and rugged, rising to 7,644 feet (2,330 metres) at Mount Popomanaseu on Guadalcanal. 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. Earthquakes and a subsequent tsunami in April 2007 killed several dozen people and displaced thousands; in January 2010 a less-severe series of earthquakes and the tsunami that followed left more than 1,000 people homeless.
Demography of Solomon Islands
Most of the population is Melanesian. Polynesians, 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, 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 of Solomon Islands
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. The 2007 earthquakes and tsunami 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 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 of Solomon Islands
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.
Culture Life of Solomon Islands
History of Solomon Islands
A Spanish explorer, Álvaro de Mendeña de Neira, was the first European to visit the islands (1568), but his colonizing efforts failed. European settlers and missionaries arrived throughout the 18th and 19th cent. In 1885 the German New Guinea Company established control over the N Solomons. The southern islands were placed under a British protectorate in 1893; the eastern islands were added to it in 1898. In 1900, Germany transferred its islands (except Bougainville and Buka) to Great Britain in return for British withdrawal from W Samoa. Bougainville and Buka were occupied by Australian forces during World War I and were placed under Australian mandate by the League of Nations in 1920. During World War II, Choiseul, New Georgia, Ysabel, and Guadalcanal were occupied by the Japanese (1942) but were liberated by U.S. forces (1943–44).
The Solomon Islands became self-governing in 1976 and independent in 1978. The government is parliamentary, with a governor-general representing the British crown, a prime minister and cabinet, and an elected unicameral parliament. In Aug., 1997, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu became prime minister after winning a leadership vote in parliament. Ethnic strife broke out on Guadalcanal in 1999, as island natives fought with immigrants from the island of Malaita. In 2000 the battling between ethnic-based militias intensified, and the Malaita militia took Ulufa'alu hostage in June. The prime minister resigned under duress; Mannasseh Sogavare, who was chosen to succeed him, pledged to seek a resolution to the violence.
After elections held in Dec., 2001, Sir Allan Kemakeza was elected prime minister. Despite efforts to negotiate an end to the violence, it continued, ruining the economy and bankrupting the country. In July, 2003, an Australian-led peacekeeping force, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), entered the Solomons at the government's request to restore order. RAMSI was largely successful, disarming rebels, arresting their leaders, and enabling people displaced by the violence to return home, and most troops were withdrawn before year's end. Police officers associated with RAMSI remain in the Solomons.
Corruption accusations against several government ministers led to large losses for Kemakeza's party in the Apr., 2006, elections. Former deputy prime minister Snyder Rini was elected to succeed Kemakeza as prime minister, but Rini's election sparked protests in Honiara by demonstrators upset with his ties to what they regarded as a corrupt administration. The protests turned into anti-Chinese riots because the corruption has been associated with the money and development brought by recent Chinese investors. Additional Australian and New Zealand forces were sent to the Solomons to help restore order, and Rini resigned when he lost parliamentary support. In May, Mannasseh Sogavare was elected prime minister with the support of the opposition parties.
The new government's relations with Australia subsequently became strained when Australia's ambassador criticized a Solomons investigation into the post-election riots as a potential whitewash and was expelled. The situation worsed when Sogavare appointed Julian Moti, an Australian lawyer of Fijian descent who was wanted in Australia on child sex charges, as the Solomons attorney general. Australia sought Moti's extradition from Papua New Guinea, where Moti was arrested (Sept., 2006) while in transit. Moti managed to flee with apparent help from Papua New Guinea and Solomons officials, and then entered the Solomons illegaly and was held there. (His appointment as attorney general was suspended as a result of his illegal entry.)
A Solomons police investigation into Moti's illegal entry resulted in a raid on the prime minister's office. Sogavare criticized the raid as an Australian violation of his nation's sovereignty because of the presence of Australians (hired by the Solomons government) throughout the police force; the Australian government denied having any involvement in Solomons police affairs. A Solomons court cleared Moti of all Solomons charges in December, the Australian-born police commissioner was subsequently declared an undesirable immigrant, and in July, 2007, Moti became attorney general. In Apr., 2007, an undersea earthquake and tsunami caused widespread significant destruction in the W Solomon Islands, devastating the nation's second largest city, Gizo.
Sogavare lost a confidence vote in Dec., 2007, and Derek Sikua, backed by the oppostion and some former Sogavare supporters, became prime minister. Moti subsequently was deported to Australia; in 2009 the indictment against him was stayed permanently by an Australian judge. After the Aug., 2010, parliamentary elections, Danny Philip cobbled together a disparate coalition to narrowly secure the prime ministership. Charges of misuse of funds led the coalition's erosion in Nov. 2011 and Philip resigned; Gordon Darcy Lilo succeeded him as prime minister.
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