Solomon Islands. In February, the Solomon Islands
suffered a tsunami following a severe earthquake in the
Pacific Ocean southeast of the island. Several villages were
destroyed in the flood, ten people lost their lives and
thousands became homeless. Rescue work became difficult as
the worst-hit island is remote and its airport flooded.
Countryaah, an intense debate was held during the year about the
future of the mining industry in the Solomon Islands. The
country's only producing mine, the Gold Ridge gold mine on
the island of Guadalcanal, was estimated to contribute
one-fifth of GDP, but a nickel deposit on the island of
Santa Isabel was believed to be ten times larger. A Japanese
and an Australian company disputed in court the rights to
the deposits, and both claimed that they had the landowners'
In July, the RAMSI Peace Force began withdrawing from the
Solomon Islands after ten years. The Australian-led force
had existed on the islands to maintain security following
the ethnic strife and lawlessness that took over two hundred
lives in 1998–2003. The military force left the Solomon
Islands during the year, but police units remained.
During the year, Australia asked the Solomon Islands to
welcome boat refugees who arrived in Australian waters and
to give them the opportunity to seek asylum in the Solomon
Islands. Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said no, pointing
out that the asylum seekers have chosen to go to Australia
and not the Solomon Islands. Australia's responsibility for
asylum seekers cannot be shifted to other countries, Darcy
Lilo said. He felt that the matter should be addressed in
the Pacific Islands Regional Cooperation Organization.
However, Papua New Guinea and Nauru accepted a similar
request from Australia.
A report from the World Bank in November found that drug
abuse has become more common in the Solomon Islands in line
with the wealth developed by the commodity industry. In some
places, the abuse was described as epidemic with social,
health and criminal problems such as domestic violence and
theft. More access to money has also led to a strengthening
of the men's position and a weakening of the women,
according to the report.