- Solomon Islands
The Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement (cnura) government entered 2010 with a focus on the national general elections several months ahead. In the last two or so years that they were in power, the government recorded passing a higher number of legislations than any other government since independence. They also stabilized diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, and the case of a former attorney general—which was instrumental for the downfall of the government before cnura—was brought before relevant authorities. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have set up offices in Honiara and are working well with the government. The first half of 2010 was occupied with the registration of voters and preparation for the national elections. This review concentrates on events leading up to the national elections, government formation, and some notable developments and events that occurred throughout the year.
Just before the dissolution of Parliament in 2010, then Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua attempted to push through what was called the Political Parties Integrity Bill, which was aimed at reducing political instability in government—an endemic feature of Solomon Islands politics (ssn, 22 April 2010). Unfortunately (or fortunately), it was defeated because of what Dr Sikua believed to be a move orchestrated [End Page 504] by some of his own ministers and backbenchers. This occurred on 24 April, two days before the dissolution of Parliament (ssn, 13 July 2010), and signaled an end to the solidarity of the cnura, which was enthusiastic to enter the national election as a political group. At their meeting on 5 April 2010, the political parties that had been running the cnura government (ie, National Party, Solomon Islands Democratic Party, Solomon Islands’ Party for Rural Advancement, Liberal Party, People’s Alliance Party, and the Association of Independents) had agreed to sign a preelection coalition agreement that would allow them to regroup after elections (sto, 7 April 2010). They felt that the cnura government under Sikua’s leadership had achieved a lot and therefore should continue with its good work. The defeat of the Political Parties Integrity Bill ended what could have been a road to political stability in the legislature. Consequently, many more parties emerged to contest the elections, as will be discussed later.
While the cnura government was still in caretaker mode, a second mobile service provider in the country established its infrastructure. This became possible after the monopoly over telecommunication services was removed in 2009. The Be-mobile company erected towers and set up an office in the country. It also promised to offer coverage for 25 percent of the population by mid-June 2010. There were concerns earlier that the company seemed like it was not making progress after it had obtained a license to operate. Indeed, the company was fined us$1.5 million for failing to launch its network on time (sto, 30 June 2010). Nevertheless, Be-mobile installed its towers and network, and by the end of August it launched its network with the tagline “mifala long hia nao” (we are now here) (sto, 31 Aug 2010). Solomon Islands Prime Minister Danny Philip praised Be-mobile, claiming that “the launch of Be-mobile’s network has brought the country to a new threshold of a new partnership and a new beginning for governments, the private sector and other stakeholders” (sto, 9 Nov 2010). This was a momentous achievement, as telecommunication prices were slashed because of the competition. Recent reports have it that, in the Pacific, Solomon Islands is now second only to Tonga in terms of mobile phone use (ssn, 2 Feb 2011).
Another notable development in 2010 was the progress toward reopening the Gold Ridge mine on Guadalcanal. The company was granted a loan of us$35 million by the International Finance Corporation to facilitate developments toward reopening the mine (sibc, 25 June 2010). By May 2010, big machines and equipment for work on the mining site were arriving in the country. It is hoped that the gold mine will start production in March 2011 (ssn, 26 June 2010). The construction of resettlement/relocation villages was also reportedly going well, with a total of 320 houses being...