Concept: Liquor Policy


Solomon Islanders did not make their own alcohol, except on some of the Polynesian outliers where palm toddy was manufactured. Those who had travelled to overseas plantations in the nineteenth century had clandestine access to alcohol, and drinking was such a problem that the missions convinced some to sign pledges to abstain. (Moore 1991) Within the Protectorate alcohol was available surreptitiously from Chinese traders in Tulagi and other places.

After the Second World War, one long-term issue of contention was the Protectorate regulation that denied Solomon Islanders the right to drink spirits, but allowed Solomon Islanders of good standing to be granted permits to drink beer. In January 1958, a committee was established to review this policy, which found that illicit drinking of alcohol was widespread, particularly since the Second World War, and that alcohol, including methylated spirits and home brew, was easily available in Honiara and other towns.

In December 1957, High Commissioner Sir John Gutch (q.v.) appointed a Select Committee to examine the issue, with three expatriate and three Solomon Islander members, including Bishop A. T. Hill (q.v.), Father J. M. Wall (q.v.) and Jacob C. Vouza (q.v.), with Colin Allan (q.v.) as chairman. The committee recommended considerable liberalisation of existing restrictions. The revised permits under the Liquor Ordinance, which applied to all Solomon Islanders, Fijians, Gilbert and Ellice Islanders and New Hebrideans, came into force on 5 May 1959. It allowed beer drinking on licensed premises, the purchase of up to twelve bottles per month for home consumption, and beer drinking on social occasions. Very restrictive permits to drink spirits were available only through the High Commissioner. Women could apply, but were only granted a permit if their husbands already had one. Other races were able to drink beer freely under the general provisions of the Ordinance, and this rankled with Solomon Islanders. (V. J. Andersen, Legislative Council Debates, 6 June 1961, 70; Allan 1990, pt. 2, 181)

The permit system was abused: there were too many permits for publicans to police, and they were also borrowed. On 1 February 1962, the Ordinance was further modified. Permits for beer drinking were removed, and beer could now be sold freely in public bars to indigenous people over twenty-one, but restrictions on wine and spirits remained in force. Full and restricted licenses were introduced for publicans and clubs, sale hours were reduced and Liquor Licensing Boards were established in each district. After extensive discussion in the Legislative Council (q.v.) during 1964, a Liquor (Amendment) Bill was passed in the December 1964 Session which removed all race-based restrictions on alcohol consumption. It came into force on 1 January 1965. (NS Jan. 1958, Mar. 1958, Feb. 1959, Sept. 1961, Feb. 1962, 16 Dec. 1964)

Related Corporate Bodies

Related Cultural Artefacts

Published resources


  • Allan, Colin H., Solomons Safari, 1953-58 (Part II), Nag's Head Press, Christchurch, 1990. Details

Book Sections

  • Moore, Clive, ''Me Blind Drunk': Alcohol and Melanesians in the Mackay District, Queensand, 1867-1907', in Roy McLeod;Donald Denoon (ed.), Health and Healing in Tropical Australia and Papua New Guinea, Department of History and Politics, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, 1991, pp. 103-122. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details