The Solomon Islands is a nation in the Pacific Ocean that is part of the British Commonwealth.
The United Kingdom established a protectorate over the Solomon Islands in the 1890s. Some of the bitterest fighting of World War II occurred on these islands. Self-government was achieved in 1976 and independence was granted on July 7, 1978. Current issues include government deficits, deforestation, and malaria control.
In 1992, Cyclone Tia struck the island of Tikopia, wiping out most housing and food crops.
Civil war began in 1998, which has posed a strain on the central government's budget.
In December 2002, Cyclone Zoe struck the island of Tikopia and Anuta, cutting off contact with the 3,000 inhabitants. Due to funding problems, the Solomon Islands government could not send relief until the Australian government provided funding.
Continuing civil unrest led to an almost complete breakdown in normal activity: civil servants remained unpaid for months at a time, and cabinet meetings had to be held in secret to prevent local warlords from interfering. The security forces have been unable to reassert control, largely because many police and security personel are associated with one or another of the rival gangs.
In July 2003 the Governor General of the Solomons issuesd an official request for international help, which was subsequently endorsed by the governmemt. Technically, only the Governor General's request for troops is necessary. However, the government intends to pass legislation to provide the international force with greater powers and resolve some legal ambiguities.
It is expected that a sizable international security contingent, led by Australia and New Zealand, and with representatives from about 20 other Pacific nations, will begin arriving in late July or early August 2003. It will act an interim police agency and the front-line members of the force will be police personel. However, the present state of lawlessness in the Solomons is such that it is not considered reasonable to send police alone to deal with it, and both Australia and New Zealand are also expected to provide a substantial number of soldiers to act as a backup with sufficient force to overawe any gang.
On July 6, 2003, in response to a proposal to send 200 police and 2,000 troops from Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific nations to Guadalcanal, warlord Harold Keke has announced a ceasefire by faxing a signed copy of the annoucement to the Solomons Prime Minister, Allan Kemakeza. Keke ostensibly leads the "Guadalcanal Liberation Front," but has been described as marauding bandit based on the isolated southwestern coast of Guadalcanal.
On 11 July, 2003, Australia was accused by a former Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands of engaging in neo-colonialism.
The bulk of the population depend on agriculture, fishing, and forestry for at least part of their livelihood. Most manufactured goods and petroleum products must be imported. The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold. Economic troubles in Southeast Asia led to a steep downturn in the timber industry, and economic output declined by about 10% in 1998. The government instituted public service pay cuts and other retrenchments. The economy partially recovered in 1999 on the strength of rising international gold prices and the first full year of the Gold Ridge mining operation. However, the closure of the country's major palm oil plantation in mid-year cast a shadow over future prospects.
The Solomon Islands have regular military forces; Solomon Islands National Reconnaissance and Surveillance Force; Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP)
The military budget of the Solomon Islands has been strained due to a four-year civil war. Following Cyclone Zoe's strike on the islands of Tikopia and Anuta in December 2002, Australia had to provide the Solomon Islands government with 200,000 Solomons ($50,000 Australian) for fuel and supplies for the patrol boat Lata to sail with relief supplies.
From the CIA World Factbook 2000.