A homebrew spirit known as kwaso is rapidly becoming the Solomon Islands’ biggest law and order problem.
In Honiara, the highly potent alcoholic drink is causing drunken fights and bashings and making women scared to walk the streets at night.
The national police force and members of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) rounded up three suspects in a weekend raid on a hideout in the village of Buma, just north of the Malaitan capital Auki.
The initial raid found evidence of the manufacture of kwaso, but the raiding party was told by locals the offenders had moved.
Kwaso is made by mixing fruit, sugar and yeast, with the ingredients put in an old gas cylinder which serves as a pressure cooker, and the mix heated on an open fire.
Corporal Tony Robertson, who headed up the military contingent of the raid party, says the alcohol is being made deep in the rainforest.
“You can see it is beside a running stream, and they need the water to cool it down, so it can come back to a liquid form,” he said.
“They have built a small lean-to hut to protect the fire from the elements, and also to give them some concealment from being seen by anyone else returning to the gardens in the area.”
Detective George Kalo says two of the offenders were located in a leaf hut, one holding a long-bladed bush knife and one an axe.
“When you see the natives holding a bush knife, you might feel they are going to hurt you, but somehow, with some understanding, it’s just something that’s nothing to us,” he said.
“We can just communicate in their own language, so we can approach them … very peacefully. We can handle it with no problem.”
A third suspect was later arrested.
Village council chairman and chief John Kala, who called in the Solomon Islands police, says 20 or 30 young men in the village are now kwaso drinkers.
“As chief, I’ve observed that many women become victims of this kwaso problem,” he said.
“The husbands go out to drink, come in at nights [and] bash them up if there is no food in the house. That is the real problem.”