Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The government of the Solomon Islands follows the British pattern with a few changes.  The Prime Minister is the leader of the government and he is elected by the Parliament.  Members of the Parliament are from geographic areas of the Island Nation and are elected by their respective constituents.  So the only vote the people have in the national government is for their own Member of Parliament. 

A vote of confidence can be called by the opposition just about any time they want.  One was called for and scheduled for 11th November, Friday.  Danny Phillips has been the Prime Minister for the last 4 years or so and has been friendly with the Church.  All week prior to the vote of confidence it looked like he had a solid majority of the 49 Parliament Members with 29 committed to vote for him.  However he was accused of misappropriating seven million of a 10 million dollar gift from Taiwan.  It was supposed to go to buy solar panels and systems for some of the small remote islands, but he had spent 7 million on his second wife and family. 

Friday morning prior to the vote he resigned because of the allegations.  At about 9:30 am on Wednesday 16th of November, the Parliament voted Gordon Lilo in as the new Prime Minister.  He received 29 votes but is very unpopular with the citizens.  We were down town at about 10:30am, but didn't see anything unusual.  By noon demonstrators were on the streets in downtown Honiara with a homemade banner demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister (who had not yet been sworn in) by 4PM or they would burn the town.  They walked through town blocking the roads as they went.  We did not know that they were headed for the Governor General's house just 1/4 mile up the road from where we live.  

Richard Osmotherly from the Pacific Area Office had been here doing some real estate work for the Church and he stopped at our home at about 11:30 AM to let us know what he had been able to accomplish while here.  He was preparing to leave to catch his flight when we heard a helicopter.  He immediately knew it was RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) and left in a hurry.  At the time we didn't know but he had only gotten down Kola Ridge Road about 200 yards from our home when he met the demonstrators coming up.  He pulled to the side of the road with the other traffic to let the crowd pass.  Some of them tried to pull him out of his car but he hung on to the steering wheel and was eventually able to get the door shut again and locked but during the scuffle they broke his back window, smashed up his rental car and stole his briefcase with his cell phone and passport. 

We heard the demonstrators coming up the road and noticed that the gate was not locked so I ran out and locked it just as the first ones came past.  It was as if they didn't see me and continued on up the road.

I went back in the house and Cheryle gave me the camera and I snuck around the corner of the veranda and snapped this shot of them going past.

The RAMSI helicopter flew around our area most of the remainder of the day.  There was at least 1000 and maybe as many as 2000 angry demonstrators who passed us by on their way to the Government House where the Governor General lives.  They stayed there nearly 2 hours demanding to see the GC and tell him not to swear into office Gordon Lilo, but were told he had left to go to the police station down the hill. 

So down the hill they came angrier now, throwing rocks, bricks or anything they could find, rolling tires and trying to break out the street lights.


Never did they cause us any trouble or throw anything on the Church property but it was rather tense for a while knowing that anything could happen.  Note those looking at me while I was taking pictures from our steps with our security man, Willie who is a native, by my side.  Television reporters told us later that they had to leave because the mob started throwing rocks at them because they thought the police would use the pictures to arrest some of the demonstrators.

The Prime Minister was scheduled to be sworn in at 1PM but because of the trouble it was postponed and he was actually sworn in at 5PM.

The missionaries were all out proselyting and we talked to them on their cell phones and got them to come back home as soon as they could.  The elders in White River had to get through town so we got the help of Brother Poll, a New Zealander, who lives in White River to bring them home.  Once they were accounted for and safe we called the Mission Home in Port Moresby and notified Pres. Fata of what had happened.  Brother Poll knew a member of the Church in RAMSI and gave us his cell number with instruction to call him direct if anything happened here.  I spoke to him before we went to bed and was grateful to have him if we needed him.  The Burns Creek Elders were safe so we had them stay there over night and had the 4 Elders here sleep in our house.  Our security guard left at about 4PM and said he would return at 6:30PM.  He never came back until 8AM the next morning.  When he did come back I asked him why he did not return Wednesday night and he said he was "weak".  We all took shifts Wednesday night on the veranda on guard duty.  Cheryle & I took the 4 AM shift.  All was quiet through the night.  The Police and RAMSI had stopped the protesters from causing trouble in China Town and arrested about 25 of them Wednesday night.

As word got out Wednesday evening, especially that an employee of the Church from the Area Office had been hurt, the phone began to ring.  Everyone wanted to know if we were alright and if they should try to get us out, etc.  We assured them all that we were fine and safe and to leave us here.  We were never threatened and Brother Osmotherly was the only one hurt other than a few police officers that were hit by rocks thrown by the protesters.

Thursday morning at 5:30 AM I spoke to Brother Chase at RAMSI and he cleared us to go to Burns Creek to get the Elders there.   The trip was fast and safe and we kept the elders inside the compound most of the day.  Elder Tamihana and Elder Bourne went downtown and escorted Brother Osmotherly around to apply for a new passport etc.  As it turned out a little girl was found playing with his passport and her father turned it in to the Australian Embassy.

Thursday things were a little tense downtown with a lot of angry people, but not trouble.  Cheryle and I went down to the Hotel to make sure the reservations were all secured for Pres. and Sister Fata, Elder Vinson, and Elder Hamula, the Area President.  We guaranteed them with our personal credit card.  The Parliament met long enough to pass a motion to adjourn until Wednesday next week to allow the Prime Minister time to appoint his cabinet and Ministers of Government.  The weekend was very normal and things have been normal and calm since then.

Members and Missionaries were due to arrive at Honiara Harbor from Malaita for the District Conference this weekend and we snapped a few shots as we waited for them to come in.  This is a huge container ship leaving a little lighter than it arrived.  Much more is shipped in than is shipped out from the Island.  Nearly everything we eat and buy comes from somewhere else, however mainly because of Gold Ridge Mining, the country has a positive trade balance.

For the past few weeks most of our time has centered around the preparations for Elder Hamula's visit on November 25-28 to organize the first Solomon Island District.  We have made hotel reservations and adjusted them as schedules have changed.  Much time has been spent with Pres. Misitana in making the arrangements necessary for the conference.  There has also been a lot of things that needed to be cleaned, repaired or replaced. 

Cheryle and I have visited all of the media on the Island and delivered invitations to the radio station, 3 news papers, and One television to attend a news conference Elder Hamula will hold when he arrives Friday.  The invitations we made included his schedule for the weekend and suggested questions that they could ask him about the Church.  Everyone of them without exception said they will be at the news conference and cover the activities through the weekend. 

We created invitations and delivered them to "opinion leaders" for a dinner that will be held at our home Friday night with Elder Hamula.   The Governor General (the Queen's official representative) was unable to come and sent his regrets through his secretary who told us that his schedule would not allow him to come.  He indicated that his Excellency would be pleased if we would invite him another time.  We took Matthew Sauseru with us to each of these people because he knows most of them.  We invited the Deputy Minister of Immigration who said he would attend.  At the Minister of Health's office we left an invitation with his secretaries.  The owner of the Solomon Star Newspaper, an Anglican Priest, accepted our invitation and said he would let us know if he could come.  Dr. Ellison Vane, Director of Dentistry for the Ministry of Health who worked with us on the dental hygiene project, said he would attend Friday.  We also left an invitation for Dorothy Wickham, the owner of One Television and hope she will come.

No, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here like we do at home.  There is a holiday called Thanksgiving and it is scheduled the day after Christmas.  We are not sure if they do anything special.  So far no one we have asked seems to know anything about it but it is on the calendar. 

Today is Thanksgiving at home and we hope you all enjoy it.  We miss you all and miss the blessing of celebrating Thanksgiving Day.  Our preparations for the big dinner tomorrow seem to be all encompassing and we will be running all day to get the last supplies and make preparations for it.

Cheryle has full responsibility for the dinner with Elder and Sister Hamula, Elder Vinson, The Fatas, 2 Counselors in the mission presidency and the dignitaries (opinion leaders) who we have invited.  We expect about 20 people here tomorrow night.  Cheryle is amazing, planning the menu and preparing the entire meal with her 24" gas oven.  Most often she cannot find what she wants in the stores so she is busy replanning, and adjusting the menu to match the available ingredients here.  The dinner will be amazing and I am so grateful for Cheryle's great talents and hard, hard work.  I'll do the easy stuff and try to support her in the preparations.

These views of Honiara Harbor were taken from near the television station above town.

View of the Hyundai Plaza 

Elder Wanapo and Elder Yama are from the bush in Paupa New Guinea so we asked them if they knew how to climb a coconut tree.  Dumb question, I guess it's like asking if I've ever climbed an apple tree.

Elder Yama with the bush knife and Elder Wanapo starting up the tree. 

Elder Wanapo kicking loose a coconut

The jobs done so we need a pose for a picture from our veranda

Elder Wanapo handing down the bush knife to Elder Yama

As dusk fell Cheryle snapped some calendar views of the sunset over Kola Ridge from our veranda.  Yes we do live in a beautiful place in paradise.

Lights are out, have a good night!

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