Biographical entry: Ulufa'alu, Bartholomew (1939 - 2007)

25 May 2007
Prime Minister


Bartholomew Ulufa'alu was born in 1939 in Alite Village in Malaita's Lanaglanaga Lagoon. He attended Catholic primary schools and Aruligo secondary school. In 1970 he went to the University of Papua New Guinea, where he became President of the Students Representative Council, and graduated with a B.A. in Economics in 1974. After returning to the Solomons, he worked to set up the Rafea and Kwakuna Co-operative Development Society. In February of 1975 he founded and became President of the Solomon Islands General Workers Union. Because he was seen as a radical at the time, he was blocked from the colonial public service. He set up the Nationalists Party to fight the June 1976 general election, in which he became a member of the Legislative Assembly (q.v.). He formed the Coalition Opposition Group, which later became the Nationalists Democratic Party and published a weekly newspaper during 1977. At independence in 1978 he was Leader of the Opposition. He also was elected a member of the Honiara Town Council. He was sent to prison twice during his career, once in 1978 for two months for fighting with his close relative Francis Saemala (q.v.), then Prime Minister Kenilorea's Special Secretary. He was stripped of his position on the Honiara Town Council.

Ulufa'alu was Leader of the Opposition for the two years leading up to independence in 1978 and became Finance Minister in the 1981-1984 Mamaloni government. Though he is remembered as an excellent Finance Minister, this apparently did not impress his constituents, who failed to return him in the 1984 election. He spent the next few years involved in various business ventures of little success. He returned to Parliament in 1988, only to resign his East Honiara seat in 1990 to join the Prime Minister's Office in order to establish a pool of local business and development advisers to replace expatriate consultants. Prime Minister Mamaloni (q.v.) then claimed that the new scheme was too expensive and abolished it, leaving Ulufa'alu as a private consultant and low-profile businessman. He still did some work for the government and on his own initiative set up a successful national Farmers' co-operative, the Solomon Islands Farmers' Association. He stood unsuccessfully in the 1993 elections, when at Mamaloni's urging he ran unsuccessfully against his arch-political rival Francis Saemala in a bitter and heated contest for the Central Malaita seat. In 1996, he formed the Liberal Party, which became his political comeback vehicle in 1997.

He served as Prime Minister from June 1997 until he was deposed by a coup in June 2000. Ulufa'alu was a reformist who tried to arrest the excesses of the Mamaloni era and introduce sound fiscal management. However, he had to contend with powerful, corrupt forces in Mamaloni's cronies, and also the organisation of the Isatabu Freedom Movement on Guadalcanal in 1998, which forced the expulsion of twenty thousand of his fellow Malaitan citizens from the island. Ulufa'alu managed the crisis poorly, and eventually the counter-militants, the Malaita Eagle Force in league with mainly Malaitan members of the Royal Solomon Island Police, staged a coup on 5 June 2000. Ulufa'alu was placed under arrest and eventually resigned on 14 June. He became an embittered Leader of the Opposition. He was returned again to the National Parliament in the 2000 elections, and in the April 2006 elections he became Finance Minister in the Sogavare government from 5 May until October 2006. He died on 25 May 2007 after a long battle with diabetes. (SS 29 May 2007; Larmour 1979b, Notes on Contributors, 257; Moore 2004b, 61-62, 3-19, 93-136; STT 26 July 1978; SND 9 July 1976; Ulufa'alu 1977, 1979, 1983)

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Published resources


  • Moore, Clive, Happy Isles in Crisis: The Historical Causes for a Failing State in Solomon Islands, 1998-2004, Asia Pacific Press, Canberra, 2004b, ix, 265 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Ulufa'alu, Bart, 'The Effects of Colonialism and Christianity on Customary Land Tenure in the Solomons', in John H. Winslow (ed.), The Melaesian Environment, Ninth Waigani Seminar, Port Moresby, 2-8 May 1975, Angus & Robertson, Singapore, 1977, pp. 537-43. Details
  • Ulufa'alu, Bart, 'Colonialism and Customary Land Tenure', in Peter Larmour (ed.), Land in Solomon Islands, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, 1979, pp. 10-22. Details
  • Ulufa'alu, Bart, 'The Development of Political Parties', in Peter Larmour;Sue Tarua (ed.), Solomon Islands Politics, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, 1983, pp. 101-106. Details