|General background: The UK established
a protectorate over the Solomon Islands in the 1890s.
Some of the most bitter fighting of World War II occurred
on these islands. Self-government was achieved in 1976
and independence two years later. Ethnic violence, government
malfeasance, and endemic crime have undermined stability
and civil society.
Area comparative: Slightly
smaller than Maryland.
monsoon; few extremes of temperature and weather.
Terrain: Mostly rugged mountains with some
low coral atolls.
Population: 494,786 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Melanesian 93%, Polynesian
4%, Micronesian 1.5%, European 0.8%, Chinese 0.3%,
Religions: Anglican 45%, Seventh-Day Adventist
7%, Roman Catholic 18%, United (Methodist/Presbyterian)
12%, Baptist 9%, other Protestant 5%, Indigenous beliefs
Language: Melanesian pidgin in much of the
country is lingua franca; English is official but
spoken by only 1%-2% of the population.
note: 120 indigenous languages
Government type: Parliamentary democracy tending
Legal system: English common law, which is
Economic overview: The bulk of the population
depends 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. However, severe
ethnic violence, the closing of key business enterprises,
and an empty government treasury have led to serious
economic disarray, indeed near collapse. Tanker deliveries
of crucial fuel supplies (including those for electrical
generation) have become sporadic due to the government's
inability to pay and attacks against ships. Telecommunications
are threatened by the non-payment of bills and by
the lack of technical and maintenance staff many of
whom have left the country.
Communication/Telephone system: Not available
Places of interest: the islands have a well-deserved
reputation as possibly the world's best destination
for scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing freaks.
Travel tips: Sporadic outbursts of violence,
is the order of the day in Malaita Province and rural
Guadacanal Province. Be cautious and alert.