Solomon Islands

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands, independent Commonwealth nation (2015 est. pop. 587,000), c.15,500 sq mi (40,150 sq km), SW Pacific, E of New Guinea. The islands that constitute the nation of the Solomon Islands—Guadalcanal, Malaita, New Georgia, the Santa Cruz Islands, Choiseul, Ysabel (Santa Isabel), San Cristobal (Makira), the Shortland Islands, and countless smaller islands—are only part of the 900-mi (1,448-km) Solomon Islands chain, which also includes Bougainville and Buka, which are politically part of Papua New Guinea. The capital is Honiara, on Guadalcanal.

Land, People, and Economy

The Solomons are mountainous and heavily wooded. The inhabitants are largely Melanesians, although some Polynesians live in the outlying atolls. About one third of the people belong to the Church of Melanesia, and there are minorities of Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations. English is the official language, but a Melanesian pidgin is the lingua franca; there are about 120 indigenous languages.

Farming, fishing, and forestry are the main occupations. Cocoa beans, coconuts, palm kernels, rice, potatoes, vegetables, and fruit are grown. Economic development has been slow, and industry is limited to fish processing, mining, and lumbering, with the last contributing most to the nation's economy. There are large undeveloped mineral resources. By the 1990s, logging levels had become unsustainable and the government instituted regulatory legislation, but large-scale logging was nonetheless expected exhaust the nation's forests sometime in the 2010s. Timber, fish, coconut products, palm oil, and cocoa are the main exports, while foodstuffs, machinery, manufactured goods, fuels, and chemicals are imported. The main trading partners are China, Australia, and South Korea.


The country is governed under the constitution of 1978. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by the governor-general, is the head of state. The government is headed by the prime minister. The unicameral National Parliament has 50 members, all elected by popular vote for four-year terms. Administratively, the Solomon Islands are divided into nine provinces and the capital territory.


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. The military component of RAMSI was not phased out until 2013; afterward, police officers associated with RAMSI remained in the Solomons until 2017.

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 no-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, a decision upheld (2011) by the High Court, which ended Moti's prosecution. 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.

Heavy rains led in Apr., 2014, to devastating flash floods in Guadalcanal, especially Honiara, and other parts of the Solomons. The parliamentary elections in Nov., 2014, led the following month to Sogavare's return as prime minister. Sogavare was removed by a no-confidence vote in Nov., 2017, and was succeeded as prime minister by John Hou. In Apr., 2019, after parliamentary elections, Sogavare again became prime minister. Sogavare's government ended dipolomatic relations with Taiwan, switching to Beijing, leading to protests and calls for his removal particulary from those living in Malaita, the country's most populous island. In Nov. 2021, the protests turned violent, particularly in Honiara's Chinatown district, where businesses were looted and set on fire, during which three people were killed.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Solomon Islands


an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, east of New Guinea in Melanesia. The principal islands are Bougainville, Guadalcanal, Santa Isabel, Malaita, San Cristobal, Choiseul, and New Georgia. Area, 40,400 sq km. Population, 263,200 (1971). The northern islands, including Bougainville, Buka, Nissan, and several atolls, are part of Papua New Guinea. The rest, the larger part of the islands, has been an independent state since 1978. It has an area of 28,400 sq km and a population of 200,000 (1977). The state’s capital is Honiara.

The Solomons are inhabited by several dozen ethnic groups, most of whom belong to the Melanesian race and speak Austronesian or Papuan languages. In addition, there are also Polynesians and Micronesians. Most of the inhabitants of the Solomon Islands are Christians, chiefly Protestants.

Most of the islands are of volcanic origin; the Balbi and Bagana volcanoes are still active. The maximum elevation, 2,743 m, is on Bougainville. The climate is subequatorial and very humid, with mean monthly temperatures of 26°–28°C. The annual precipitation ranges from 2,300 mm to 7,500 mm. Southeasterly trade winds prevail from May to October and northwesterly equatorial monsoons from December to March. The rivers are short and deep.

The islands are extensively covered with evergreen forests of palms, figs, and other trees. Savannas are found in the drier areas, and mangroves fringe the coast. The fauna includes rats, bats, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, giant frogs, wild pigeons, and parrots. The main economic activities are the growing of coconut palms, pineapples, cacao trees, and cotton, as well as fishing and lumbering. Copper is mined on Bougainville.

The Solomon Islands were discovered in 1568 by the Spanish navigator A. Mendaña de Neyra, who obtained gold from the natives and named the islands Islas de Solomón after Solomon’s Land of Gold.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Solomon Islands

Official name: Solomon Islands

Capital city: Honiara

Internet country code: .sb

Flag description: Divided diagonally by a thin yellow stripe from the lower hoist-side corner; the upper triangle (hoist side) is blue with five white five-pointed stars arranged in an X pattern; the lower triangle is green

Geographical description: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Papua New Guinea

Total area: 11,599 sq. mi. (27,556 sq. km.); archipelago: 280,000 sq. mi. (725,197 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical monsoon; few extremes of temperature and weather

Nationality: noun: Solomon Islander(s); adjective: Solomon Islander

Population: 566,842 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Melanesian 93%, Polynesian 4%, Microne­sian 1.5%, other 1.5%

Languages spoken: Melanesian pidgin in much of the country is lingua franca; English is official, but spoken by only 1%-2% of the population; 120 indigenous languages

Religions: Anglican Church of Melanesia 32.8%, Roman Catholic 19%, South Seas Evangelical 17%, Seventh-Day Adventist 11.2%, United Church (Methodist) 10.3%, Christian Fellowship Church 2.4%, other Christian 4.4%, other 2.4%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.2%

Legal Holidays:

ChristmasDec 25
Good Friday - Easter MondayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayJul 7
National Day of ThanksgivingDec 26
New Year's DayJan 1
Queen's BirthdayJun 17, 2011; Jun 15, 2012; Jun 21, 2013; Jun 20, 2014; Jun 19, 2015; Jun 17, 2016; Jun 16, 2017; Jun 15, 2018; Jun 21, 2019; Jun 19, 2020; Jun 18, 2021; Jun 17, 2022; Jun 16, 2023
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The statement claimed that those in the Solomon Islands who prefer switching recognition to China remain in the minority.
The government promulgated the Child and Welfare Act in 2017 to strengthen the Solomon Islands penal code, providing protection for children against sexual and trafficking crimes.
In February 2013, a magnitude 8.0 hit the South Pacific, ( generating a tsunami that hit the Solomon Islands and killed six people.
"Both the transport program, and the economic and fiscal reform program complement each other as part of ADB's overall drive to support inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth ," said Hayden Everett, ADB's Solomon Islands Senior Country Specialist.
The Solomon Islands provides a preview of how sea-level rise could affect other coastal communities in the coming years, the study added, largely because the speed with which erosion is taking place there has been accelerated by a "synergistic interaction" with the waves that surround it.
The study raises questions about the role of government in relocation planning, said a Solomon Islands official.
The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands conveyed his profound gratitude for the donation and appreciated the kind gesture of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to support the people of Solomon Islands in their hour of need.
SYDNEY -- A powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands generated a tsunami of up to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) that damaged dozens of homes in the South Pacific island chain Wednesday, but authorities canceled warnings for tsunamis on more distant coasts.
Nursing education in the Solomon Islands has come a long way since the early 1980s when the highest award was a certificate in nursing, administered by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS).
Summary: Crowds in the Solomon Islands lined the streets as the Royal couple rode an open-top vehicle made to resemble a traditional canoe.

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