Solomon Islands


There is a suggestion that the Solomon Islands were populated by people from Papua as far back as 30,000 years ago. More recently, about 4,000 B.C., Austronesian speaking peoples also came to the islands.

The history of the Solomon Islands really starts with the arrival of the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana Y Neyra, who set out from Peru in 1567 in search of the Islands of Solomon. He came across Santa Isabel on 6th February 1568 and named the islands accordingly. There were others who stumbled upon the islands over the next couple of hundred years, but British explorer Philip Carteret, in command of HMS Swallow, was the next person to record their presence in 1767.

As was so often the case, the islanders were exploited by sugar plantation owners as more and more Europeans arrived and in 1893 the United Kingdom declared a protectorate over the islands. German interests in the islands were transferred to the British under the Samoa Tripartite Convention of 1899.
In addition to sugar plantations there was large scale coconut planting up to the Second World War.

The Solomon Islands were the scene of some of the most violent and prolonged fighting during the Second World War. It started with the invasion of the islands by the Japanese in January 1942. Then in May 1942 the major naval battle of Coral Sea was fought and in August of that year Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands, was invaded by the 1st Division of the U.S. Marine Corps. It took until December 1943 until all of the islands were captured by the Allies.

After the war the British colonial government returned and the capital was moved to Honiara on Guadalcanal where the Americans had rebuilt the infrastructure. But the economy had been destroyed and a political movement known as the “Maasina Ruru” opposed government authority in late 1948. The dissident nature of a number of groups continued through the early 1950s and in 1960 the Advisory Council of Solomon Islanders was superseded by the Legislative and Executive Councils. These, in turn, were replaced in 1970 with a single Governing Council as part of the 1970 Constitutional changes.

In 1974 another new Constitution introduced a parliamentary democracy and ministerial system of government and in mid-1975 the British Solomon Island Protectorate was renamed the Solomon Islands. On 2nd January 1976 the Solomon Islands became self-governing and on 7th July 1978 they were granted independence. Chief Minister Sir Peter Kenilorea became Prime Minister of the newly independent state.

The first government of the newly independent islands was elected in August 1980 and Prime Minister Peter Kenilorea was head of that government until September 1981. The political history of the Solomon Islands proceeded to follow a pattern which has continued up to the present day; there was a realignment of the political factions within the parliament and Peter Kenilorea was replaced by Solomon Mamaloni. Peter Kenilorea was re-elected in 1984 as Prime Minister only to be replaced by his former deputy Ezekiel Alebua in 1986.

1989 saw the return of Solomon Mamaloni as Prime Minister. Francis Billy Hilly was elected Prime Minister after the June, 1993 elections but was replaced in November 1994 by Solomon Mamaloni.

Whilst these realignments in parliament were taking place, long-simmering tensions between the local Gwala people on Guadalcanal and migrants from neighbouring Malaita erupted into violence in 1999 which eventually led to the deaths of 1200 people and the displacement of 30,000. The civil unrest was to be resolved only for it to flare up again. Eventually 2,000 troops and 300 police from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) arrived in July 2003 to take control of security and calm things down.

Meanwhile the political scene has changed little. Political parties come and go with tedious regularity, parliamentary coalitions rarely last the course whilst no-confidence motions and leadership changes are frequent.

Following the 2010 general election there were eleven political parties and a bunch of Independents in the 50 seat National Parliament. Danny Philip of the Reform Democratic Party (RDP) formed a government on 25th August 2010 but he only lasted until 16th November 2011. Philip was replaced by Gordon Darcy Lilo of the National Coalition for Reform and Advancement (NCRA), a coalition of seven parties with 27 seats between them; he has managed to hold on until the October 2014 general election.

Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State.

The unicameral National Parliament consists of 50 members serving four year terms.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places the Solomon Islands at joint 72nd out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 42 (where 100 is least corrupt).