THE EXPLOITATION OF ‘KASTOM’ IN THE SOLOMONS

BOOK REVIEW

The Manipulation of Custom: From Uprising to Intervention in the Solomon Islands Victoria University Press (www.vuw.ac.nz/vup) Jon Fraenkel Soft cover; 256 pages; NZ$34.95

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - "The Manipulation of Custom: From Uprising to Intervention in the Solomon Islands" is the first full and comprehensive account of the crisis that has gripped the Solomon Islands since 1998.

The story begins with the 1998 Isatabu uprising on Guadalcanal and the eviction of thousands of Malaitan settlers from their homesteads on that island, continues by analyzing the coup of June 2000 and the failure of the Townsville Peace Agreement of October 2000, and concludes with an investigation and assessment of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Jon Fraenkel, a senior research fellow at the Pacific Institute of Governance and Development at the University of the South Pacific, addresses several critical questions about the crisis: how and why it started; why it escalated so rapidly and continued for several years; and why successive governments were unable to disarm the militias and end the violence.

The central theme of the book is a critical investigation of the usage of appeals to Melanesian kastom and "compensation" demands throughout the crisis, and the way in which these were exploited by governments, failed politicians and militia leaders to bankrupt the Solomon Islands state.

Fraenkel’s research and publications focus on the economic history of Oceania and contemporary Pacific politics, and he regularly covers Pacific issues for international press and radio outlets.

"The Manipulation of Custom" was published with financial assistance from the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (www.pcf.org.nz) and co-published with Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

March 16, 2005

 

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