Biographical entry: Saunana, John Selywn (1945 - 2013)

30 April 2013


John Selwyn Saunana was born in 1945 in Arosi, western Makira, from parents of Makiran/South Malaitan and Malaitan/Guadalcanal backgrounds. He entered Waimapuru District School at age eleven in 1956 and went on to St. Barnabas' Alangaula School (q.v.) (1958), All Hallows' School at Pawa (q.v.) (1962) and King George VI Secondary School (q.v.) (1964). He then studied at the University of Papua New Guinea where he earned a B.A. in 1971. Between 1967 and 1977 he worked in several positions: at the Establishment Branch of the Secretariat in Honiara (1967), the Kukum Mental Hospital as an attendant (1968), the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service in the Pijin World News section, Mendana International Travel Service; the University of Papua New Guinea as a research assistant in Education, Science and Technology (1972), Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby as a waiter, University of Papua New Guinea as a tutor and senior tutor in the Language Department (1973-1975), King George VI School as a teacher (August 1976), and as a training officer at the U.S. Peace Corps in Honiara in January 1977. At the South Pacific Games in Port Moresby in 1969 Saunana represented the Solomon Islands. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly (q.v.) in February 1977 in the West Makira seat vacated by Solomon Mamaloni (q.v.), and was appointed Minister for Education and Training in February 1978. He then joined the public service and served in many capacities, more recently as Secretary to the Governor-General and in a position in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. In his final years he was a member of the Leadership Code Commission. His 1980 novel The Alternative, about resistance to colonialism, was the first published by a Solomon Islander. He remained one of the country's leading literary figures and President of the Solomon Islands Creative Writers Association until his death on 30 April 2013. (Saemala 1979, 42; Melanesian Nius 22 Feb. 1977; SS 3 May 2013)

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Published resources


  • Saemala, Francis, Our Independent Solomon Islands, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Solomon Islands Centre, Honiara, 1979. Details