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Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands

Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
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    Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands
    Book Description:

    Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands examines a crisis moment in recent Solomon Islands history. Contributors examine what happened when unrest engulfed the capital of the small Melanesian country in the aftermath of the 2006 national elections, and consider what these events show about the Solomon Islands political system, the influence of Asian interests in business and politics, and why the crisis is best understood in the context of the country's volatile blend of traditional and modern politics. Until the disturbances of April 2006 and subsequent deterioration in bilateral relations between Australia and Solomon Islands under the Sogavare government, experts had hailed the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) as an unqualified success. Some saw it as a model for 'cooperative intervention' in 'failing states' worldwide. Following these developments success seems less certain and aspects of the RAMSI model appear flawed. Using the case of Solomon Islands, this book raises fundamental questions about the nature of 'cooperative intervention' as a vehicle for state building, asking whether it should be construed as a mainly technical endeavour or whether it is unavoidably a political undertaking with political consequences. Providing a critical but balanced analysis, Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands has important implications for the wider debate about international state-building interventions in 'failed' and 'failing' states.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-66-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Sinclair Dinnen and Stewart Firth
  6. Contributors
    (pp. x-xii)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  8. State building

    • Chapter 1 Dilemmas of intervention and the building of state and nation
      (pp. 1-38)
      Sinclair Dinnen

      Even by the momentous standards of recent times, 2006 was an eventful year in Solomon Islands. The first general elections since the deployment of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) were held at the beginning of the year. In view of RAMSI’s early achievements in restoring security and stabilising the economy, voters had high expectations of continuing progress. The elections led, in turn, to the first change of government since 2001. Despite its unpopularity, the outgoing government of Sir Allan Kemakeza (2001–06) was the first since independence to survive a full term in office. July 2006...

  9. Unrest

    • Chapter 2 Politics of disorder: the social unrest in Honiara
      (pp. 39-63)
      Matthew Allen

      The rioting and looting that broke out in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands, immediately after the parliamentary election of the new prime minister in April 2006, and the national election two weeks earlier, highlight the deep-seated structural issues that continue to plague this fledgling independent South Pacific nation. The prime minister-elect, Snyder Rini, resigned a week after he was elected in the face of a parliamentary vote of no confidence and was succeeded in the nation’s top position by Manasseh Sogavare. Two Members of Parliament were arrested on charges relating to the riots, parliamentary sittings were ‘locked down’ by...

    • Chapter 3 No more walkabout long Chinatown: Asian involvement in the economic and political process
      (pp. 64-95)
      Clive Moore

      In the 1960s, Solomon Islander Fred Maedola recorded a song with Viking Records that became a classic in the Pacific. Written by Edwin Sitori, it was called Walkabout Long Chinatown, and it described lyrically the delights of wandering through Honiara’s Chinatown. Sadly, the old ramshackle Chinatown has disappeared, burnt to the ground during two days of rioting in April 2006 after the election of Snyder Rini as the eighth prime minister of the troubled nation. Chinatown was a short distance from the centre of modern Honiara. It was a homely place on the banks of Mataniko River, where rural Solomon...

  10. Elections and Political Process

    • Chapter 4 Westminster meets Solomons in the Honiara riots
      (pp. 96-118)
      Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka

      On Wednesday 19 April 2006, the Solomon Islands national capital, Honiara, woke up to the smouldering remains of the previous day’s rioting, which had left much of Chinatown burned to the ground, shops looted, vehicles torched, a number of police officers injured and a newly elected prime minister in hiding.

      That morning, the sky opened and sprinkled rain as though to cool the anger that had led to the mayhem. In some places, the flames flared on in defiance, eating away the old wooden structures that were once part of a bustling shopping district. In other parts of town, such...

    • Chapter 5 Rainbows across the mountains: the first post-RAMSI general elections
      (pp. 119-147)
      Sam Alasia

      The social crisis that ravaged Solomon Islands from 1998 to 2003 has taught us many lessons. ‘Rainbows across the mountains’ symbolises a genuine wish by Solomon Islanders to rebuild their country with new insights and understanding. Some improvements, such as a vigorous campaign for a clean election, were seen in the 2006 national election, the first since RAMSI arrived in Solomon Islands in 2003. The Sogavare government, which assumed power in May 2006, has made a priority issues of good governance, quality leadership, the weeding out of corruption, national healing, decentralisation and equitable distribution of development and wealth. Though we...

    • Chapter 6 The impact of RAMSI on the 2006 elections
      (pp. 148-184)
      Jon Fraenkel

      The chains came off the doors of parliament and Governor-General Nathaniel Waena strode out at midday on 18 April 2006 to announce the results of the thirteenth prime ministerial elections since independence. To his right was former premier Sir Allan Kemakeza, whose government had proved the first since independence to survive a full term in office.¹ On his left was Snyder Rini, Kemakeza’s former deputy, who was declared solemnly to be the newly elected prime minister. Surrounding them were the former cabinet ministers, fresh from their faction having prevailed over the opposition by 27 votes to 23 in a secret...

  11. RAMSI

    • Chapter 7 RAMSI—the way ahead
      (pp. 185-193)
      Mary-Louise O’Callaghan

      It is no small coincidence that the first to congratulate Solomon Islands’ new prime minister on his election was a member of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Just four hours after Manasseh Sogavare had secured one of the most arduous jobs in the region, RAMSI Special Coordinator, James Batley—who, arguably, was holding down an equally challenging post—dispatched his congratulations to the man with whom he knew he must now attempt to forge an open and trusting partnership if RAMSI in its current form was

      In reality, Batley and the government that put him there...

  12. Provincial Perspectives

    • Chapter 8 Kastom and theocracy: a reflection on governance from the uttermost part of the world
      (pp. 194-212)
      Jaap Timmer

      As of 1998, it became apparent to the wider world that many Solomon Islanders were prepared to violently oppose the central government—reacting to a long legacy of poor management of the country’s resources. Honiara, Australia and the international media were alerted to what had gone wrong in Solomon Islands when long-standing tensions between people from Guadalcanal and Malaita sparked a violent campaign of forcible displacement of Malaitan ‘settlers’ from rural Guadalcanal and a subsequent backlash from Malaitan militants based mainly in Honiara. Thousands were affected by the ‘tensions’ and by skirmishes between opposing ethnic militias. A coup by Malaitan...

    • Chapter 9 The coup nobody noticed: the Solomon Islands Western State Movement in 2000
      (pp. 213-245)
      Ian Scales

      The most significant political consequence of the conflict in Solomon Islands between 1998 and 2000 was the widespread shift in thinking towards a federal system of government. This chapter argues that long-held political aspirations for greater independence in the resource-rich Western Province were reactivated in a milieu of ethnic tension in the west, and that Western Province politicians used the visionless Malaitan coup in Honiara as a springboard for a calculated push towards their own enhanced fiscal autonomy through advocacy of a federal system. Although the west was the only region likely to increase its wealth from the kind of...

    • Chapter 10 Crisis in Solomon Islands: foraging for new directions
      (pp. 246-268)
      Transform Aqorau

      Solomon Islanders are fed up with the constant politicking and petty bickering of their politicians and the manipulative behaviour of Asian loggers, which has resulted in the corruption of the entire fabric of Solomon Islands society save for the judiciary. Speaking to the former legal adviser to the Department of Forestry recently, I was told that he had grown tired of brown envelopes being handed to him. On one occasion, as he was getting out of his car, a group of Malaysian loggers turned up and—before he could wind the window closed—threw a bundle of neatly folded cash...

  13. Appendix 1 The unrest in Honiara—an Australian government perspective
    (pp. 269-275)
    Anita Butler
  14. Appendix 2 Terms of Reference Commissions of Inquiry Act (Cap. 5) Commission of Inquiry into the April 2006 Civil Unrest in Honiara
    (pp. 276-279)
  15. Appendix 3 Pacific Islands Forum Review of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Terms of reference
    (pp. 280-284)
  16. Index
    (pp. 285-294)