A FRESH LOOK AT WWII LEGACY IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
On a recent field visit in April 2015 Mette Eliseussen and John Rodsted from Australian non-government organisation (NGO) SafeGround documented the impact of the left over ordnance from the war that ended 70 years ago.
Working closely with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), Mette and John travelled to worst-affected areas and covered how UXO affects business development, farming and the environment. They
also spoke with survivors of dynamite fishing, which they found to be an extensive problem in some areas and highly destructive to the Solomon Islands’ precious marine environment.
“This visit has been a real eye opener for us and for the Solomon Islanders themselves who we’ve worked with” said Mette. “We’ve found a high level of UXO contamination that is comparable to other regions of the world that have had years of extensive clearance operations. Solomon Islanders have come to accept the presence of bombs as a normal part of life, but it is not.”
This project, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, looks at the Solomon Islands UXO problems and produces a report, exhibition and short film. These will be released in the Solomon Islands and to the international community.
“Internationally little is known about the scale and scope of the problem in the Solomon Islands and much of the Pacific,” said John. “We hope more countries will learn about the Solomon Islands and help in clearing the left over UXO.”
The exhibition covers a factual snapshot of the history of WW2 battles, life with the left over ordnance and current efforts to manage the issue of UXO. The US humanitarian foundation Golden West is based at Hells Point building national capacity with the RSIPF. The Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, who are now some of the world’s top professionals in dealing with WWII munitions, regularly retrieve and dispose of bombs in a safe and controlled manner.
“Ultimately, we hope to raise the status of UXO in the Solomon Islands as an issue of national importance, and through international awareness contribute to increased funding for UXO clearance operations” said Edmond Sikua, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services.