Biographical entry: Kelesi (Kelesimalefo Tuita), Mariano (1932 - 2009)

12 November 1932
25 December 2009


Mariano Kelesi was born on 12 November 1932 at Tauba Island in Lau Lagoon, Malaita, and attended the Uru village school and St. Joseph's Primary School at Tenaru on Guadalcanal in 1947. He left at Standard VI and in 1953 joined the public service before working as a customs clearance clerk for Breckworld & Co. in Honiara in 1956. Then, from November 1956 to February 1957, he attended a Fisheries Training Course in Noumea, New Caledonia organised by the South Pacific Commission and Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Kelesi in this was sponsored by the Malaita Council (q.v.), and was accompanied by Nelson Niolo, who was sponsored by the BSIP Government. On his return to the Solomons, Kelesi made plans to establish fishponds and traps and to experiment with fish preservation, and to run training courses. In 1958, he returned to Malaita as a Fisheries Officer for the district, a position he held for two years.

Also in 1958 Kelesi became a member of the Malaita Council and was then elected, unopposed, as its President (1960-1968). He was defeated in the August 1968 elections. During his tenure on the council he was a government-nominated member of the first Legislative Council (q.v.) (1960-1965), elected to the Legislative Council for North Malaita (1965-1967) and appointed as an unofficial member of the Executive Council (q.v.) (1965-1968). In 1967 Kelesi was re-elected to the Legislative Council (1967-1970), and then as a member for North East Malaita in the Governing Council (q.v.) (1970-1973). On the latter he became Chairman of the Health and Internal Affairs Committee (1970-1971) and the Internal Affairs Committee (1971-1973).

Kelesi travelled extensively abroad, often representing the Protectorate. In April 1961, he accompanied Secretary for Protectorate Affairs V. J. Andersen to the opening of the reconstituted Papua New Guinea Legislative Council in Port Moresby, and in July 1962, along with Francis Bugotu (q.v.) and Co-operative Societies Officer M. B. Hamilton, he attended the 5th tri-annual South Pacific Conference in Pago Pago, American Samoa. In 1964, Kelesi was awarded an American Leader Grant for a three-month visit to the United States, from July to October. He continued travelling on behalf of the Protectorate, attending the 6th South Pacific Conference in Lae in July 1965. Between 1970 and 1980 he represented the Protectorate at several overseas conferences. In 1970, Kelesi attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Canberra, and in 1977 was part of the delegation to the Independence Constitutional Conference in London. (NS 31 Oct. 1970)

When Kelesi was defeated in the 1973 national election he went into private business, having established LKP Hardware the year before with two partners. He was returned in the 1976 general election as member for Lau and Mbaelelea, and became Minister for Education and Cultural Affairs (1976-1977) and then, in February 1978, Minister for Works and Public Utilities. He lost his seat in the 1980 national election.

Kelesi became Managing Director of LKP Hardware, which expanded with branches in Honiara and Malaita and a sheet metal shop in Ranadi in Honiara. During his post-parliament years he dedicated much time to public service. During his long career he served on the Public Service Advisory Board, and the boards of the Central Bank, Ports Authority (as its first Chairman, from 1974-1975), Tourist Authority and Honiara Municipal Authority, and was Vice-President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He was Chairman of the Home Finance Corporation, the Honours and Awards Committee, the Citizenship Committee, and the Air Transport Licensing Authority, as well as Commissioner of the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission. He was a life-member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Vice Chairman of the Federation of Solomon Island Business, and a member of the Rotary Club of Honiara. Kelesi was awarded an O.B.E. in 1974 and was knighted in 1992, and later received a Cross of Solomon Islands. He died on Christmas day of 2009. (Gary Gray, 'Keep the Wantok out of the Commercial World', Island Business Apr. 1999, 34-35; Bennett 1987, 318; NS Dec. 1956, Apr. 1957, 15 July 1962, 31 July 1964, 15 July 1965, 31 Aug. 1965, 31 Aug. 1968; Saemala 1979, 40; SS 29 Dec. 2009; Craig and Clement 1980, 100)

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Published resources


  • Bennett, Judith A., Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 1800-1978, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1987. Details
  • Craig, Robert D., and Clement, Russell T., Who's Who in Oceania, 1980-1981, Institute of Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University, Hawaii Campus, Laia, Hawaii, 1980. Details
  • Saemala, Francis, Our Independent Solomon Islands, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Solomon Islands Centre, Honiara, 1979. Details


  • Solomon Star, 1982-. Details
  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details