20 Jan 2009

Declassified British documents show worries about colonial Solomons

2:24 pm on 20 January 2009

Newly-declassified files released to Radio New Zealand International show that British intelligence was monitoring officials in Solomon Islands in 1978.

The documents say there was concern that Western Province might organise a breakaway government before London could grant Solomon Islands independence in July of that year.

They were released after 30 years of secrecy.

Ben Lowings reports from London:

"The British were worried about breakaway meetings in Gizo in the run-up to independence. Attention focussed on the Western Council, which was threatening a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. It planned to seize shipping and sabotage airfields, and send a secret delegation to Tuvalu - to find out how a single British colony could become two independent countries. Arrangements were made to meet lawyers in Australia. The British were watching. They noted the protagonists in Western Province, and examined their plane tickets and their foreign contacts. The British then noted that some people in Western Province failed to realise the adverse long-term effects of breaking away from Solomon Islands. Agitation for statehood went on, but the documents speak of relief, that the independence celebrations in July 1978 successfully overshadowed minor protests elsewhere."