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Ryan & Dorday: Another Day In The Solomon Islands

Another Day in the Solomon Islands Begins


Report from Yasmine Ryan, Images by Jason Dorday
On assignment in Honiara, Solomon Islands, for Scoop.co.nz

(Honiara, 26 April 2006) - After flying down to Christchurch Monday night, the Scoop contingent (photographer Jason Dorday and myself) caught the New Zealand Defense Force cargo flight to the Solomon Islands. At around 11 hours, including a stop-off in Port Villa, Vanuatu, the RNZAF C130 Hercules flight was a lot longer than in a Boeing 747, but the Air Force food and service was a lot more generous and accommodating than in its commercial equivalent.

Some of the 8 media hitching a ride to the Pacific island nation slept on the cargo while others were shrewd enough to weasel into a bunk. At any rate, there was certainly more legroom than in Air New Zealand economy. The bacon, egg and hash brown breakfast was only the beginning, and being permitted a peak into the cockpit topped it all off.

Arriving in Honiara on a humid Anzac Day evening, we witnessed some of the young Kiwi and Aussie troops all geared up, many probably on their first overseas deployment. RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) has been active here since July 2003. In light of the continued instability that last week’s riots represent, however, their presence is likely to be necessary for quite a while longer.

The dawn-till-dusk curfew remains in place and looks likely to remain so for at least a couple of weeks. We arrived in Honiara after the 6pm deadline but were kindly escorted to our hotels by Civil Aviation Employees, who had passes exempting them from the restriction.

On the post-curfew drive to our hotel, we saw a handful of isolated people walking the streets. An alcohol ban is in place, but this likewise appears to be flexible, especially when it comes to hotel bars.

We also glimpsed many burnt-out buildings, including the formerly extensive Pacific Casino Hotel and several small businesses. Most of the remaining businesses had groups of ethnic Solomon Islands standing guard outside to prevent further looting and destruction. Some were armed with scrap pieces of metal. Signs reading ‘locally owned’ were visible on almost all small businesses on the road into Honiara.

The hotels here are swarming with media, mainly Australian. There is much anticipation over today’s vote and whether or not the opposition will boycott.

Already the sound of the ocean is mingled with the buzzing of RAMSI helicopters. Parliament opens at 9.30am, in just over an hour. After last week’s turmoil and yesterday’s courtroom drama, no one can be certain of knows what today’s events will bring.

Another day in the Solomon Islands begins...

(Check back for continuing coverage…)

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