The Australian government's decision to lead a Pacific Islands Forum regional intervention into Solomon Islands marked a dramatic change in Australian policy toward the Solomons in particular and the Pacific Islands region in general. It demonstrated Australia's willingness to play a more assertive role in the domestic affairs of Pacific countries. The decision also reflected fundamental changes in
the global security environment following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States and the perception that international terrorism has made it difficult to separate external and internal security. Canberra was influenced by the idea that terrorists could use "failed states" to pose security problems for Australia (and other western countries). While Australia's concerns about its own security as well as the influence of Anglo-American security policies have led the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands to concentrate on rebuilding the Solomon Islands state, this paper argues that the post-conflict nation building process must include other institutions besides the state—such as churches, community leaders, nongovernmental organizations, women's groups—that already have an influence on society. This is particularly important for Solomon Islands, a country where there have always been multiple centers of power, with the state not always the most important. Further, post-conflict nation building must also involve the mending and rebuilding of relationships between peoples while ensuring that foreign assistance does not create a culture of dependency.
In the Samoan polity today, the indigenous institution of the matai (chiefs) continues to play a pivotal role in governance. In determining leadership, the fa'asāmoa (Samoan way) and the fa'amatai (way of the chiefs) are the most influential factors. Yet this has not prevented Sāmoa from experiencing governance problems found in other countries of the region, although perhaps on a lesser scale: misunderstanding, frustration, alienation, migration, discrimination, malpractice, patronage, and violence. Reasons for this may be (1) a lack of correspondence between fa'asāmoa and liberal democracy; (2) a lack of general understanding and critical assessment of the principles of liberal democracy in Sāmoa; (3) a combination of misuse, abuse, or misunderstanding of fa'asāmoa; and (4) a lack of publicity and critical assessment of the principles of fa'asāmoa. This paper examines aspects of these four characteristics of the Samoan polity and looks at ways of reassessing governance. It draws on literature that deals with some of the main features of Samoan political thought, as well as on discussions with Samoan scholars and thinkers. This introduction to a different approach to Samoan governance also briefly reviews some of the political forces and tensions at play in Sāmoa to show how they impact current political conceptualization.
Sāmoa, democracy, fa'amatai, fa'asāmoa, political thought, philosophy, governance
Dialogue 1: Reflections on Nuclear Testing in the South Pacific, edited by David Chappell