Jonathan Fraenkel

Manipulation of Custom, The: From Uprising to Intervention in the Solomon Islands

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The Manipulation of Custom is the first full and comprehensive account of the crisis that has gripped the Solomon Islands since 1998.

The story begins with the 1998 Isatabu uprising on Guadalcanal and the eviction of thousands of Malaitan settlers from their homesteads on that island, continues by analysing the coup of June 2000 and the failure of the Townsville Peace Agreement of October 2000, and concludes with an investigation and assessment of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Jon Fraenkel addresses several critical questions about the crisis – how and why it started, why it escalated so rapidly and continued for several years, and why successive governments were unable to disarm the militias and end the violence.

The central theme of the book is a critical investigation of the usage of appeals to Melanesian kastom and ‘compensation’ demands throughout the crisis, and the way in which these were exploited by governments, failed politicians and militia leaders to bankrupt the Solomon Islands state.

Praise for The Manipulation of Custom

This book is a gift to readers interested in conflicts that unfolded in Solomon Islands during the late 1990s. Organised chronologically, it presents a history in two parts, before and after the coups of 2000, concluding with the Australian-led intervention in July 2003 (the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI). The author traces a complex array of events which, taken together, constitute a story of state collapse and recovery that has transformed the international image of Solomon Islands from that of an ecologically rich country of traditional cultures to one of a violence-ridden "failing state". The book is written so that it will be accessible to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.
Vol 114 Number 1 March 2005

This book by Jon Fraenkel of the University of the South Pacific is a welcome and well balanced perspective on the issues behind the civil strife that afflicted Solomon Islands from the late 1990s until 2003. ...Fraenkel's work highlights the value of political science research for the understanding of contemporary events.
Vol 52 Number 1 March 2006

Dr Jon Fraenkel is a Senior Research Fellow in Governance at the Pacific Institute of Governance & Development at the University of the South Pacific. His research and publications focus on the economic history of Oceania and contemporary Pacific politics, and he regularly covers Pacific issues for international press and radio outlets.
The Manipulation of Custom is published with financial assistance from the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, and co-published with Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

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