The authorities, including church communities, are mobilising to combat this increasing social problem - especially in the capital, Honiara.
Presenter: Sam Seke
Speaker: Archbishop Adrian Smith, Catholic Church of Solomon Islands
SEKE: Most Solomon Islanders do not have formal employment and cannot afford to buy alcoholic drinks from the shops. Some youths in the rural areas therefore make their own home brew from various fruits. But more than a decade ago now, a new form of highly potent distilled drink called Kwaso was developed in Honiara and is now prevalent in many parts of the country. Kwaso has become a serious social problem in the country according to Police Commissioner, Peter Marshall.
MARSHALL: Well, it is a serious problem in the sense that all the advice we get from the various chiefs and we move around the provinces is that an additional number of young people are always getting involved with Kwaso and of course we have a large amount of unemployment here in Honiara, in particular. People coming in from the various provinces. They have time on their hands. Kwaso is very highly potent. It's very easy to make so they tell me and indeed, it features regularly in matters of violence and matters of domestic abuse and the like.
SEKE: Mr Marshall says the police are also making submissions to increase the penalty for offenders involved in the Kwaso trade.
MARSHALL: The police are certainly active. We have seized considerable quantities of it. We're always seizing little distils around the Solomon Islands. But the police aspect, the police ability to control it is merely one component of what needs to be done. It needs to be thought through very carefully, through the leaders, through the churches, through legislatures. And indeed, we're actually putting submissions in that the penalties for Kwaso be markedly increased in relation to penal reform that is going on at the moment.
SEKE: The Police Commissioner says the potent home distilled drink is responsible for a lot avoidable crimes - and was a contributing factor to at least one homicide case in Honiara last weekend.
MARSHALL: Well, it is a significant factor. I mean we had two homicides this weekend, and certainly in one of them, on Saturday morning, the victim and the offender had been drinking Kwaso. It is highly potent and tempers start to flare and actions are taken as a result of minor abuse whereas if the people were sober, they would just walk away. But it is a scourge that the Solomon Islands does not require or does not need.
SEKE: Meanwhile, the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Solomon Islands, Adrian Smith, says social problems associated with drinking was not new in the country. Archbishop Smith says when he arrived from Ireland 43 years ago, people in the country used other forms of spirits including methylated spirit to intoxicate themselves.
SMITH: When I came to Solomons, the major problem for many people was drinking methylated spirits. Even the compasses on the ships were not safe, because people would break the compass and take the alcohol out of the compass. So these social problems are not new. They show themselves in different ways at different times.
SEKE: Archbishop Smith says drinking Kwaso is a socio-economic problem which the government and churches have to address.
SMITH: I think until we have a good participatory form of development and a development that opens up the possibilities for rural people, that is one side. The other side is the churches, we have a big task in front of us and our task is to teach values and we have to constantly do that. That's a challenge for all of us churches, it's a challenge for the government to.