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Fr John Lamani, Pacific media leader, dies in Honiara


Fr John LamaniFATHER JOHN LAMANI CMG, an influential media manager and journalist in the Solomon Islands, has died at his home in Honiara.

Father Lamani, publisher of the Solomons Star, passed away early on Monday morning. His funeral was held in Honiara on Tuesday and his body was taken home to his village on the island of Malaita for burial.

I knew John when I worked for the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) in the 1980s.

John joined the SIBC as a journalist from the Government Information Service and rose to the position of news editor.

In about 1982-83, the Solomons government decided to leave the media scene and sold the government news sheet, News Drum, to John and some of his colleagues for a peppercorn price of $1.

Thus, the Star newspaper was born; now known as the Solomons Star and the only daily newspaper in the country. It is hugely influential and financially successful. As part of the business group, John also established an FM radio station, Paoa FM.

During the ethnic civil war which faced Solomon Islands, John displayed considerable courage in not bowing to the demands of competing sides regarding news coverage in his newspaper.

This was despite his own background being Malaitan; Malaita being the island (along with Guadalcanal) from which many of the troubles developed.

When I last met John, he told me of his personal experience of having a gun held at his head as he sat in his editorial office in Honiara. Yet he did not flinch from reporting objectively and neutrally.

Beyond the Solomon Islands media scene, John was a leader in the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and regularly supported training and development efforts across the region, including in Papua New Guinea.

 Many PNG media friends will know John and appreciate the efforts he made in ensuring that independent media and freedom of expression continued to survive in the Pacific despite many forces hostile to a free press.

John had a strong bond with his Church and, in recent years, became a lay preacher. Thus, he became known as Father and, last year, was honoured with a CMG by the Queen.

Father John Lamani passed away suddenly from a suspected heart condition.


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