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Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands occupy a strategic location on sea routes between the South Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Sea, and the Coral Sea. Its people [647,581 - July 2017 estimate] have been at war with each other, manipulated by dreadful political leadership. Most of the population lives along the coastal regions; about one in five live in urban areas, and of these some two-thirds reside in Honiara, the largest town and chief port.

The Solomon Islands lie in the South Pacific cyclonic trajectory and are vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and sudden tidal movements. The Cyclone season is from November to May when heavy rain can lead to flooding, landslides and disruptions to services. Tropical storms and cyclones may also occur in other months. The direction and strength of cyclones can change with little warning. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available for all those who stay.

The government is unstable and corrupt, dominated by Australian bureaucrats. In general, Solomon Islands politics is characterized by fluid coalitions. The monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the advice of the National Parliament for up to 5 years (eligible for a second term); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually elected prime minister by the National Parliament; deputy prime minister appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from among members of the National Parliament. The unicameral National Parliament has 50 seats; are members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms).

The Solomon Islands had lots of timber, but Malaysian loggers nicked most of it. Rich in gold and fish, but in the unrest mines and canneries were targeted. Vast palm oil plantations all ruined by strife. The bulk of the population depends on agriculture, fishing, and forestry for at least part of its 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. Prior to the arrival of The Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), severe ethnic violence, the closure of key businesses, and an empty government treasury culminated in economic collapse. RAMSI's efforts, which concluded in Jun 2017, to restore law and order and economic stability have led to modest growth as the economy rebuilds.

The Solomon Islands is a source and destination country for local adults and children and Southeast Asian men and women subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution; women from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are recruited for legitimate work and upon arrival are forced into prostitution; men from Indonesia and Malaysia recruited to work in the Solomon Islands’ mining and logging industries may be subjected to forced labor; local children are forced into prostitution near foreign logging camps, on fishing vessels, at hotels, and entertainment venues; some local children are also sold by their parents for marriage to foreign workers or put up for “informal adoption” to pay off debts and then find themselves forced into domestic servitude or forced prostitution.

The UK established a protectorate over the Solomon Islands in the 1890s. Some of the bitterest fighting of World War II occurred on this archipelago.

During World War II, US and Japanese forces fought each other in Solomon Islands, then a British protectorate, one of the most hotly contested World War II battlefields on earth. East of the two major islands of New Guinea and Australia lies a barrier of smaller islands which extends from the Bismarck Archipelago to New Caledonia. As a series of potential air and sea bases, these islands offered the Japanese in the spring of 1942 the attractive possibility of cutting deep into the South Pacific and of severing Australia's and New Zealand's life line to America's west coast. Conversely, the islands provided a ladder by which the Allies might climb northward to the enemy bases in the Carolines, bypassing the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and possibly extend our sway west to the southern Philippines. Here, also, lay the opportunity for waging a punishing war of attrition on an economically inferior enemy. Although the Allies initially were manned and equipped for a defensive war in the Pacific, the invasion of Guadalcanal and the Papuan campaign marked the beginning of a two-pronged Allied offensive north through the Solomons and along the northern coast of New Guinea. By the end of 1943, the Allies were in command of the entire Solomon chain. The struggle for control of the Solomon Islands was a critical turning point in the war against Japan. These campaigns can best be appreciated as a sequence of interacting naval, land, and air operations. The Battle of Guadalcanal became one of the most important, and bloody campaigns, fought in the Pacific War as the Allies began to repulse Japanese expansion. Of the approximately 36,000 Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal, about 26,000 were killed or missing in action, 9,000 died of disease, and only 1000 were captured. The movie “the Thin Red Line” is based on the Battle of Guadalcanal. On 01 November 1943, Marines landed on Bougainville in the final major operation of the Solomons campaign.

The large-scale U.S. presence toward the end of the war dwarfed anything seen before in the islands. American soldiers were well liked because they paid well for services provided, interacted positively with locals (e.g. sharing meals as friends), supported local communities and treated people of diverse backgrounds with greater equality than was previously seen.

In recognition of the close ties forged between the United States and the people of Solomon Islands during World War II, the U.S. Congress financed the construction of the Solomon Islands Parliament building. The United States participates in annual commemorations of the Battle of Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands, which was a critical turning-point for Allied forces in the Pacific theater of World War II.

The two countries established diplomatic relations following Solomon Islands' independence in 1978 from the United Kingdom. The U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea is also accredited to Solomon Islands. U.S. diplomatic representation is handled by the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea. The United States maintains a Consular Agency in Honiara, Solomon Islands to provide consular services. The United States and Solomon Islands are committed to working together and improving regional stability, promoting democracy and human rights, combating trafficking in persons, responding to climate change, increasing trade, and promoting sustainable economic development.

In Solomon Islands and across the Pacific Islands region, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supports programs that help communities adapt to the negative impacts of global climate change and supports disaster relief efforts and disaster risk reduction programs to enhance local capacity for disaster response. USAID’s Pacific Islands Regional Office is located in Manila, Philippines and covers 12 nations: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of the Marshall Islands. The United States builds the capacity and resilience of Solomon Islands to adapt to climate change through regional assistance that covers these 12 Pacific Island countries.

Self-government was achieved in 1976 and independence two years later. Ethnic violence, government malfeasance, endemic crime, and a narrow economic base have undermined stability and civil society. In June 2003, then Prime Minister Sir Allan KEMAKEZA sought the assistance of Australia in reestablishing law and order; the following month, an Australian-led multinational force arrived to restore peace and disarm ethnic militias. The Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has generally been effective in restoring law and order and rebuilding government institutions.

Most roads in Solomon Islands are in a very poor state of repair. Large potholes are common and local drivers swerve or slow to almost a stop to avoid or pass potholes, including on the main road in Honiara. Vehicles are generally poorly maintained. Traffic lanes and road rules are often ignored, particularly at roundabouts and other intersections. Off the main highway, pedestrians often walk on roads, seemingly unaware of traffic. Rocks are sometimes thrown at vehicles belonging to members of the foreign community when driving in and around Honiara.

The locals - led by politicians - burnt down Chinatown, the one prosperous part of the dusty capital of Honiara, prompting a new military intervention.

Violent protests in early May 2017 by a large group of people armed with crude weapons caused damage to properties in the Tasahe area of Honiara.

Unexploded World War II ordnance is still present in Solomon Islands, particularly at Hell's Point and the ridges behind Honiara, the New Georgia groups of islands, the former capital of Tulagi and the Russell Islands. The condition and stability of the ordnance is largely unknown.

The military and police consist of armed Australian and New Zealand soldiers with local police supported by Pacific officers. Safety risks include malaria and crocodiles. Around Honiara, street dogs roam freely, sometimes in packs. Some packs and individual dogs attack people walking, running or cycling near them. Fresh and salt-water crocodiles and sharks are common. Sometimes they come close to Honiara, including near Mbonege Beach.

Malaria occurs throughout the year in most areas of Solomon Islands. Unrest tends to coincide with sittings of Parliament, periods of political uncertainty, industrial relations disputes or high profile investigations, land disputes, or court cases. Endemic crime, riots and looting are common. The Chinese are leaving, but hardened expatriates staying. Home invasions, burglaries, and violent crime typically increase in the months approaching the Christmas holiday season.

On 14 September 2018 thousands of people began lining up at voter registration booths in Solomon Islands as preparations ramp up towards provincial and national elections early in 2019. The chief electoral officer, Mose Saitala, says more than 50,000 new voters are expected to be added to the 286,000 strong roll which was last updated in 2014.

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