Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Solomon Islands crisis

Reading Time: 3 minutes

John Howard’s panicky decision to send 200 extra troops and police to the Solomon Islands is proof that there is no capitalist solution to the problems facing the Islanders.
The Australian/New Zealand intervenion of 2003 was, as we explained then, not aimed at protecting the democratic rights and boosting the standard of living of the mass of impoverished citizens of SI, but rather to defend class interests in the region, including Australian investments such as the Gold Ridge gold mine.
The recent demonstrations and riots are expressions of anger by the local population. They are protesting against Taiwanese business interests interfering in local politics using corrupt Chinese traders and corrupt indigeneous politicans, including the Prime Minister Snyder Rini.
However the explanation for the current explosion runs deeper. The hopes of locals that the intervenion of Australian and NZ troops and police would lead to economic growth, jobs, and a decent future have been dashed. The armed forces are there to bring stability for western interests, even if that means protecting a local corrupt elite.
The Sydney-based rightwing think tank the Centre for Independent Research has honestly explained: “Gangs of youths are throwing rocks at politicians, surrounding parliament and burning down Chinese-owned businesses because nothing is being done to address the root causes of the ethnic violence and civil unrest that led to the 2003 intervention in the first place.

“Over the past 30 years, the population has grown at a reputed 3.9 per cent – one of the highest rates in the world – while economic growth has been negligible. Per capita income has been falling and living standards have stagnated.

“Unless this fundamental imbalance between population and economic growth is addressed, the gap between the elites and ordinary people will continue to grow – and so too will civil and political unrest.

“Out of a population of 550,000, about 80,000 Solomon Islanders are unemployed or underemployed. An additional 16,000 young people enter the labour force each year, but there are few, if any, jobs for them to fill.
“They can only sit around and watch as their politicians grow fat on aid and resource revenues while Chinese traders take over corner stores and local businesses. No wonder their resentment and frustration erupt into violence.

“The Solomons is not lacking in resources. On the contrary, it is rich in agricultural land, minerals, timber and fish. Since independence it has earned more than $US2 billion ($2.69 billion) from timber and fish and received about $US1.6 billion in aid (in 1998 dollars). This windfall income, however, has flowed to elites in the capital, funding overblown government and encouraging waste and corruption. It has rarely reached the countryside where most people live.

“Centred on the capital, international intervention force (RAMSI) has compounded this division between town and country, and between urban elites and subsistence farmers, by putting the political cart before the economic horse. This critical failing is not widely understood among policymakers or commentators who – until recently – have hailed the RAMSI intervention a success.

“RAMSI has focused on necessary but not sufficient tasks such as rebuilding the public service and strengthening electoral and parliamentary process, which benefits the good-governance consultants and aid staff who crowd Honiara.

“Economic measures aimed at stabilising the budget and improving financial management have brought inflation under control and growth rates back into (illusory) positive territory as aid flows to politicians and bureaucrats. But the majority of Solomon Islanders are barely better off than they were during the country’s precipitous decline.”
There is more truth in this CIS article than in the utopian rubbish from the UN, soft left, and other sources who provided a cover from the 2003 intervenion.
Remember the Green Party fully supported this intervention. On June 27th, 2003 Greens leader Senator Bob Brown told ABC Radio: ?We have maintained always that we needed to be putting much more into … security in the neighbourhood…. [T]he Solomon Islands has been … festering away without the government acting on it. And it?s acting now, that?s to be welcomed.?
We encourage all SP members and supporters to read our article below from SP in 2003 and test out its perspectives and compare it to that of the capitalist media and politicans.
Only last week Murdoch’s Australian editorial stated: “The success of an Australian-led multinational operation to restore order after the breakdown in society that occurred in 1998 when rising tensions between the peoples of Guadalcanal and Malaita spread to the rest of the country is now showing real dividends…At a time when the phrase “nation-building” prompts eye-rolling among cynics, it’s nice to see such a success story so close to home.”!!


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