FORMER SOLOMON ISLANDS PRIME MINISTER MAMALONI DIES

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 11, 2000 – Agence France-Presse)----One of the Pacific's most controversial leaders -- who was often accused of being severely corrupt -- former Solomon Islands Prime Minister Solomon Mamaloni died here Tuesday.

Believed to be aged around 56, Mamaloni had been admitted to hospital with what was described as a kidney ailment. He died there Tuesday afternoon.

At the time of death he was leader of the opposition.

Although his death had still not been officially announced, people were gathering around his body here Tuesday evening as it lay-in-state at his family home.

He is expected to be buried later in the week at his family home in the village of Macedonia on Makira Island.

Mamaloni was given his secondary education in New Zealand, crucially boarding with the family of a well known political family there. The families were leaders of the now defunct social credit movement in New Zealand and Mamaloni's often idiosyncratic economics later were often attributed to that influence.

Under British colonial rule, Mamaloni, then a civil servant, became the first ever Chief Minister of the Solomons, taking up the post in 1975. He failed to make it as prime minister at independence in 1978 but was always a key figure in political life in the Solomons.

He entered Parliament in 1972 and served four terms as prime minister between 1983 and 1997.

He feared to travel and never attended regional meetings unless they were held in his hometown.

In 1995 he attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in Auckland when it suspended Nigeria from the organization after it hanged political dissidents.

In the communiqué at the time it was noted that only Gambia and the Solomons voted not to suspend Nigeria.

A secretariat spokesman later said Mamaloni had seldom attended any of the sessions and did not seem to know what was happening, but later a Mamaloni official said the prime minister had not heard properly what was being discussed.

Mamaloni was often accused of being corrupt, particularly from Malaysian loggers who were given generous concessions to clearfell the tropical forest here.

A secret Australian Government report on Pacific leaders, made public accidentally in 1997, described Mamaloni as "wily."

"Prime Minister Mamaloni will remain an obstacle to responsible Government for as long as he is in power," the Australian paper said.

"Even in opposition he will pose a threat which will make ministers wary of change. He bought support, with help from Malaysian logging interests, to topple the short-lived reformist (Francis Billy) Hilly Government in 1994.

"Mamaloni's corrupt dealings with loggers and others enable him to continue to dominate Solomon Islands politics.

"He deflects blame for the Government's financial straits by sacking ministers; the minister of finance has been replaced twice since September 1996."

The paper talked of fraud and mismanagement in the government.

The government has made no announcement of a state funeral or day of mourning.

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz  Phone: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website: http://www.afp.com/english/ 

 

SOLOMONS MOURNS PASSING OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER MAMALONI

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 12, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The Solomon Islands is mourning the death of its opposition leader and former prime minister, Solomon Mamaloni, who died yesterday after a battle with kidney disease.

Radio Australia correspondent George Atkins reports that the Cabinet -- chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sir Baddeley Devesi -- held a special meeting to discuss what state activities will be held in Mr. Mamaloni's honor.

"Cabinet agreed that there will be a national mourning day later in the week.

"Mr. Mamaloni's body will lie in state for people to pay their last respects, but it is not clear for how long.

"Both the national government and relatives are still to agree on whether or not the burial will be held in Mr. Mamaloni's village in Makira province. But Sir Baddeley said the Cabinet agreed a formal state funeral will be held in Honiara for the county’s longest serving national politician."

"George Atkins, Radio Australia, Honiara."

Despite the controversies that dogged Solomon Mamaloni’s political life, Alfred Sasako, the minister of state assisting the prime minister, said Mr. Mamaloni was an architect of the modern nation.

"Certainly there are people with differing views, but that would not take away the fact that he was one of our Prime Ministers. In fact, most of the people in the Solomons would remember Solomon Mamaloni as one of the architects of building Solomon Islands as a nation."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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