(Em)placing law: Migration, belonging and place in Solomon Islands

Rebecca Monson*, George Hoa’Au

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    From 1998 to 2003, Solomon Islands suffered a period of social upheaval and civil conflict that is now popularly known in Solomon Islands Pijin as ‘the Tension’, or more controversially, ‘the Ethnic Crisis’. This chapter situates the conflict in an ongoing process of contestation over the multiple constructions of identity, allegiance and place within Solomon Islands’ plural legal system. It examines some of the distinctive ways in which kastom and liberal law conceive of identity and allegiance, in particular their radically different conceptions of the connection between ‘people’ and ‘place’. Place is central to the identities and cultures of many indigenous peoples, yet its role remains under-explored in legal theory, particularly in contexts characterised by legal pluralism. The commencement of the Tension is often traced to late 1998, when groups of young men indigenous to the island of Guadalcanal began driving settlers, particularly those from the island of Malaita, off Guadalcanal. The conflict escalated in late 1999, when an organised group of Malaitan militants emerged in response. The underlying drivers included conflicting claims to place made by Guadalcanal and Malaitan people: many Guadalcanal people were concerned that their entitlements (in both kastom and international law) as traditional landowners were being eroded while Malaitan settlers resented being evicted from the land they had occupied for many years. In 2000, talks between militants led to an agreement to a ceasefire and the signing of the Townsville Peace Agreement (‘TPA’). This committed the government to a process of constitutional reform, with an emphasis on devolution of power to the provinces. A Draft Constitution, released in 2009, adopts a federal system of government. It enshrines the right to freedom of movement, but also proposes that this may be subject to restrictions imposed by state laws and traditional norms and practices of localities within states.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAllegiance and Identity in a Globalised World
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages25
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139696654
    ISBN (Print)9781107074330
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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