Welcome William Kadi
Welcome William Kadi, environmental defender, reggae rhyme sayer and all round difference-maker, to the PLN Team
By Dirk Heinz
I first met William Kadi in Honiara back in 2018. I had taken a 12 month full-time volunteering role working as a legal advisor and mentor at the Public Solicitors Office (PSO) in Honiara. The PSO is like the equivalent of legal aid here in Australia, except in a country where 90% of the population can’t afford private legal representation – so as you can imagine it’s a pretty critical service that is kept very busy.
The PSO is full of amazing Solomon Island lawyers. In the face of overwhelming workloads, critical resource shortages and incredibly modest salaries, they deliver high quality free legal service to Solomon Islanders in need of legal assistance. I was in awe of all of them soon after arriving at the office. But my role wasn’t to work closely with all of the PSO lawyers, my role was to work predominantly with only one lawyer – assisting and mentoring them where I could. That lawyer was Willy Kadi.
Willy was the lawyer primarily responsible for heading up the PSO’s Landowner Advocacy and Legal Support Unit. Essentially, in a country where commercial logging and mining are a core component of the economy, the customary lands and cultures of a lot of local people is almost always adversely impacted by these industries. Willy’s was a tough role. Representing local landowners who faced a huge power imbalance going up against large multinational mining and logging companies bankrolled out of China and Malaysia, he was fighting not only corporate juggernauts, but an industry that has been set up to allow corruption and malpractice to flourish. It really isn’t a job for the faint of heart. From day one as I shadowed Kadi on his daily rounds, his schedule was jammed with client interviews, court appearances, telephone calls from angry loggers and miners, meetings with conservation bodies and case research. And when I finally got him one on one and asked what he did in his spare time, he tells me that the law was only his day job!
Nights he spent in various recording studios and friends’ houses following his other passion – making reggae fusion music. When he showed me his catalogue on Youtube, I was officially blown away. The man could rap, I mean seriously rap. I later found out that his songs were regularly all over the Honiara airwaves. I still to this day can’t understand how a movie hasn’t been made about a humble environmental defender from the Solomon Islands who defends the people and their precious ecosystems against evil international logging companies by day and makes songs that are absolute honey for your eardrums by night. He is talent, coolness and kindness personified, carving up the court room and blaring through your speakers.
That first day was to be but a small window into the next 12 months working with Willy. In our time together, I watched in awe as he brought down a multimillion dollar mining company in a landmark environmental case and literally saved an island and its inhabitants from destruction (you can read more about that here) organised and facilitated numerous environmental awareness town meetings in some of the most remote places in the Pacific; and move heaven and earth to obtain funding in order to be the first lawyer on the ground for a far flung island community left reeling after a devastating oil spill.
Three years on and I’m so pleased that Kadi joining us at PLN to help the legendary Primo Afeau head-up our work in the Solomons. While in a sense we are taking away a prized asset of the Solomon Islands conservation fraternity, I know Kadi will find his own way to continue to keep up the fight to keep his beloved Hapi Isles pristine and safe, supported by his PLN colleagues across the Pacific. And of course, PLN are keen to see the music continue!
Welcome Willy. We are stoked to have you on board.