COMPENSATION AND THE MELANESIAN STATE:

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WHY THE KWAIO KEEP CLAIMING

AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTORY NOTE

By David Akin The Contemporary Pacific Spring 1999 Issue (Volume 11, Number 1:35-67)

This paper was written in 1998, and was already in press when the troubles on Guadalcanal began in December of that year. Thus it does not deal with the specifics of the current crisis. The paper does, however, examine a crucial element in this crisis: Malaitan compensation claims against various Solomon Islands governments.

In the second week in July, as part of an unsuccessful cease-fire agreement, the government paid several million dollars in compensation to Malaitan and IFM rebels, and it is likely that further compensation demands will be forthcoming from Malaita, Guadalcanal, and perhaps other parties in future negotiations.

This paper combines ethnographic, historical, and political analyses to explore contemporary meanings of compensation on Malaita, and to suggest some reasons why compensation has become so central to Malaitan-government relations. It presents a case study of a series of compensation claims made by Kwaio people, beginning in the 1980s, regarding crimes committed by a 1927 punitive expedition that followed the assassination of a district officer and his party. This leads into a broader discussion of violent Malaitan compensation claims against the central government in Honiara in 1989 and 1996, and Malaitan ambivalence and sometimes hostility toward the government.

To understand the current crisis, one must grasp not only antagonisms between the people of Malaita and Guadalcanal (the main focus of ongoing media coverage), but also those between both groups and the Solomon Islands government.

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The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs, visit the journal website at the University of Hawai‘i Press.

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