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British Solomon Islands
|Status||Protectorate of the United Kingdom|
|Charles Morris Woodford|
|Henry Graham Gregory-Smith|
|Robert Christopher Stafford Stanley|
|15 March 1893|
|14 November 1899|
|22 June 1975|
|2 January 1976|
|7 July 1978|
|1931||28,400 km2 (11,000 sq mi)|
|1970||28,400 km2 (11,000 sq mi)|
|1976||28,400 km2 (11,000 sq mi)|
|Currency||Solomon Islands pound|
Solomon Islands dollar
|ISO 3166 code||SB|
|Today part of||Solomon Islands|
British Solomon Islands Protectorate was first declared over the southern Solomons in 1893, when Captain Gibson R.N., of HMS Curacoa, declared the southern islands a British Protectorate. Other islands were subsequently declared to form part of the Protectorate over a period ending in 1900.
The Protectorate was first declared over the southern Solomons in 1893. The formalities in its establishment were carried out by officers of the Royal Navy, who hoisted the British flag and read Proclamations on twenty-one islands. By similar means, Bellona and Rennell Islands and the Stewart Islands were added in 1897, and the Santa Cruz group, the Reef Islands, Anuda (Cherry), Fataka (Mitre) and Trevannion Islands and Duff (Wilson) group in 1898. On 18 August 1898 and 1 October 1898, the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific issued Proclamations which declared (apparently superfluously) that all those islands should "henceforth" form part of the Protectorate. The two Proclamations of 1898 were superseded by one dated 28 January 1899, which was apparently intended not to consolidate them but also to correct geographical errors: it lists "the Reef Islands, Swallow Group" and a different group of islands referred to collectively as "the Swallow Group," and it includes Trevannion in the Santa Cruz group.
By a Convention signed in 1899 and ratified in 1900, Germany renounced her rights in the islands to the east and south-east of Bougainville, and in October 1900, the High Commissioner issued a Proclamation extending the Protectorate to the islands in question, i.e. Choiseul, Ysabel, Shortland and Fauro Islands (each with its dependencies), the Tasman group, Lord Howe's group and Gower Island.
Its establishment followed missionary activity which began in the mid 19th century and the establishment of a German Protectorate over the Northern Solomons, following an Anglo-German Treaty of 1886. German interests were transferred to the United Kingdom under the Samoa Tripartite Convention of 1899, in exchange for recognition of the German claim to Western Samoa.
Japanese forces occupied the Solomon Islands in January 1942. The counter-attack was led by the United States; the 1st Division of the US Marine Corps landed on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August 1942. Some of the bitterest fighting of World War II took place on the islands for almost three years.
Tulagi, the seat of the British administration on the island of Nggela Sule in Central Province was destroyed in the heavy fighting following landings by the US Marines. Then the tough battle for Guadalcanal, which was centered on the capture of the airfield, Henderson Field, led to the development of the adjacent town of Honiara as the United States logistics center.
Islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana were Allied scouts during the war. They became famous when they were noted by National Geographic for being the first men to find the shipwrecked John F. Kennedy and his crew of the PT-109 using a traditional dugout canoe. They suggested the idea of using a coconut to write a rescue message for delivery. The coconut was later kept on Kennedy's desk. Their names had not been credited in most movie and historical accounts, and they were turned back before they could visit President Kennedy's inauguration, though the Australian coastwatcher would also meet the president. They were visited by a member of the Kennedy family in 2002, where they still lived in traditional huts without electricity.
The impact of the war on islanders was profound. The destruction caused by the fighting and the longer-term consequences of the introduction of modern materials, machinery and western cultural artifacts, transformed traditional isolated island ways of life. The reconstruction was slow in the absence of war reparations and with the destruction of the pre-war plantations, formerly the mainstay of the economy. Significantly, the Solomon Islanders' experience as labourers with the Allies led some to a new appreciation of the importance of economic organisation and trade as the basis for material advancement. Some of these ideas were put into practice in the early post-war political movement "Maasina Ruru"—often redacted to "Marching Rule".
Stability was restored during the 1950s, as the British colonial administration built a network of official local councils. On this platform Solomon Islanders with experience on the local councils started participation in central government, initially through the bureaucracy and then, from 1960, through the newly established Legislative and Executive Councils. The Protectorate did not possess a constitution of its own until 1960. Positions on both Councils were initially appointed by the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific but progressively more of the positions were directly elected or appointed by electoral colleges formed by the local councils. The first national election was held in 1964 for the seat of Honiara, and by 1967 the first general election was held for all but one of the 15 representative seats on the Legislative Council (the one exception was the Eastern Outer Islands constituency, which was again appointed by electoral college).
Elections were held again in 1970 and a new constitution was introduced. The 1970 constitution replaced the Legislative and Executive Councils with a single Governing Council. It also established a 'committee system of government' where all members of the Council sat on one or more of five committees. The aims of this system was to reduce divisions between elected representatives and the colonial bureaucracy, and to provide opportunities for training new representatives in managing the responsibilities of government. It was also claimed that this system was more consistent with the Melanesian style of government, however this was quickly undermined by opposition to the 1970 constitution and the committee system by elected members of the council. As a result, a new constitution was introduced in 1974 which established a standard Westminster form of government and gave the Islanders both Chief Ministerial and Cabinet responsibilities. Solomon Mamaloni became the country's first Chief Minister in July 1974 and the Governing Council was transformed into the Legislative Assembly.