Ontong Java - Sociopolitical Organization

Political Organization. Before 1800, there was no centralized political authority within either village. During the nineteenth century, however, there were rivalries between the Leaders of prominent joint families for dominance and certain individuals emerged, especially in Luangiua, who held considerable power. During the protectorate period the British established Western political institutions. At the time of national independence in 1978, Pelau and Luangiua were separate wards with local administrative services. Each village sends an elected representative to the Malaita Provincial Assembly. Ontong Java and Sikaiana together elect one representative to the national parliament.

Social Control. Informal sanctions, such as public opinion, are important mechanisms for social control. Also, in their traditional religion the Ontong Java people believed that the spirits of the deceased, kipua, took an interest in human affairs and could punish with sickness and death offenses such as incest, adultery, or failure to fulfill social obligations. More formally, a leader of a joint family could temporarily bar a disobedient member from using land. At present, Ontong Java is part of a court system established by the British and now administered by their provincial and national governments.

Conflict. In the nineteenth century, there was constant feuding as various leaders tried to consolidate their power. By the end of the century each village had one ruler who was able to settle some disputes and punish people. At present, land disputes are a major source of tension and conflict.

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