Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The recent news that SIFF has lost $800,000 cash in the fire that burnt down their office is stunning. Why do they have to keep such as amount of mony lying aroung in the office like that? Don't they trust the banks anymore? I think they should be held accoutable for the money because fire or no fire, such huge amount of money should not be lying around in cash like that in the office.
I think the decision by the SIFF management to have such money, especially when it is in cash, lying around in the office is totally irresponsible and unjustifiable. No wonder that they have been accused for misappropriation of funds by critics; it is because they don't use the banks. This is a very naive way of doing business.
The incident made me to suspect something totally different, that they have used the fire that has burnt down the office as cover for monies they have or are intending to misappropriate. It would be very difficult to prove things to the contrary of the money being burnt away by the fire. However, I still believe that an inquiry should be undertaken on the whole issue, including the burning of the office and the loss of assets, the management ill-decision-making and so forth.
SIFF is a national office and the people of Solomon Islands to knows answers, not questions hanging in the air. Mi really doubtem that hem true that selen ia hem burnt lo fire ia. SIFF must come out clear and explainin lo people
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Hello again wantoks,
Just wanted to register that we have once again made world history last night at Dubai when our Bilikiki boys defeated the mighty Uruguay. Barava ova nice nao. Uruguay is rated as one of the strongest teams of the tournament, but our boys have proven that nothing is impossible.
We do hope that their game tonight, against the hosts, also a very competitive and well organised side, will also be a good one for them. If they win the next game then definitely they will be able to proceed to the quarter-finals, which is their ultimate goal for the tournament.
Please keep on praying that our boys will be able to shine again for our nation at the highest level of global sports.
All the best BILIKIKI....Go Solo Go!!!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Hello again! As you all know that National Parliament of Solomon Islands has recently convened the National Youth Parliament Program which coincided with the National Parliament Open Day. These are both very huge undertakings and to have them all in one go is indeed commendable achievement. Hence, first of all I would like to applaud the Speaker, Clerks and the hardworking staff of Parliament for successfully hosting the Youth Parliament Program and the Parliament Open Day all in a single week. You deserve all praise and commendation.
Having said that, I do understand that there are people out there who do not subscribe to this line of thinking hence their open criticisms of the Parliamentary Youth Program. And while I do appreciate that everybody has a right and freedom of speech to voice out their views on issues, personally I was overly flabbergasted by some of the writers' blatant and ferocious attacks on program, making it to seem as if it was a total waste of money and resources and that nothing good will ever come from it. Some even stated that this is the first ever youth parliament they have heard of to have youths sitting in the seats of elected MP's on the floor of Parliament to openly debate political issues. Others went to the extent of questioning the 'cognitive ability' of the participants, labeling them as 'kids' and asserting that their level of understanding is still inadequate to fully grasp and digest issues of policy, governance and politics. But in all the arguments in opposition to the Youth Parliament Program it was obvious that the main line of argument was that the program was a 'nuisance', 'insane', 'irrelevant' and a waste of money that could have been used for better things such as economic development activities and for the provision basic essential services.
To me I think these are very superficial arguments that somehow have painted a very negative picture on the Youth Parliament Program. These criticisms have made it to seem as if that because of the Youth Parliament Program, all other sectors of the economy have been deprived of something valuable, whether it be money or an opportunity to learn and that we should not engage in new initiatives but to stick to our conventional ways of doing things, that 'old usual stuff' since 1978. Obviously personally I think these critics do not have a vision for our youths as future leaders, and they have failed to acknowledge and realise the important role and responsibility that Parliament has as an Institution to reach out to its people.
The concept of Youth Parliament is common throughout the Commonwealth countries where youths are regarded as important cornerstone of society. In Solomon Islands youths make up the majority of our population, hence proving to be a very important part of our society. For this reason active youth participation and engagement is crucial for nation building. Our youths, therefore, must be allowed to actively engage and participate on issues of policy, governance and political debate at an early stage in life. Youths are like clay in the system. To come out with a desired end product of value, the potter has to mould the clay accordingly. And when youths are properly trained and moulded to become better citizens, they are like sparks that need no ignition. As the late US Senator, Robert Kennedy stated: "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease."
Hence, in Solomon Islands, if they are continuously ignored and suppressed, our youths are like a time bomb waiting to be ignited. One does not have to go back long into history to see how susceptible but precarious our youths are if they are engaged to achieve bitter ends. The concept of Youth Parliament therefore is to give young people the opportunity to have their views heard by key decision-makers and the general public and also to help them to fully realise their own potentials and hence their very important role in the society. It is a very effective way of raising the self-esteem of youths and empowering their participation in the democratic process. In relation to policy and governance the concept will help young people to understand and actively participate in parliamentary processes; to learn how to influence governmental decision-making as active citizens and to highlight the importance of helping young people to understand how decisions are made and how young people can be involved in influencing their worlds. Through the participation of the 50 Youth Parliamentary Representatives all our youths throughout the country can realise that they are being recognised as an important part of nation-building in Solomon Islands.
But there is even more to the Youth Parliament than that. It is an opportunity to learn a little more than many people know, about the distribution and the exercise of power. A vast number of people in Solomon Islands know little or nothing at all about how power is distributed and how our governance system operates. Many of the problems we face today in governance and politics are mainly due to our lack of - or mis-understanding of how the system works. For a better future, it is essential that we have a young generation now that better understands their political system and fully realises their place in the society so that they can participate and engage fully in it. It is important that our young people gains a deepening understanding of parliamentary democracy so that they do not hold misconstrued conceptions of it. By gaining such as a knowledge they can be able to uphold and advance its practices when it's their turn to lead the country, whether as politicians or as community leaders. After all, real power belongs to the people and as prescribed by the Constitution. But how can people responsibly exercise this power if they are ill-informed or are unaware of issues surrounding them? One may argue that that can be learned at school through the normal Secondary School Syllabus. But the reality is that there is no better place and way of learning about the system and how it works than being at Parliament itself and engaging in programs such as the Youth Parliament.
Furthermore, Solomon Islands is a member of the United Nations Organisation and therefore is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a nation Solomon Islands is required to honour the commitments it has made in signing the Convention. Articles 12 and 13 of the Convention emphasises on the need to uphold the right of young people to have a say - to have the opportunity to express their views - on matters that affect them, and the convening of a Youth Parliament is a means of realising an important dimension of those Articles of the Convention.
Financially, the above factors are all very important and immeasurable achievements that no money can buy. The critics have argued that consideration should be given to our ailing economy and the fact that we are the poorest country in the Pacific, and therefore in the world. Some argued that instead of using the money for Youth Parliament it should be channelled through the normal processes to encourage youth participation in rural economic development. However, I think this kind of analyses lacks forward thinking. How can you possibly develop a nation of peoples that lack proper and adequate knowledge on government and policy? Off course we are poor, thus educating our young people about politics and how they can fully engage in governance and policy debate is one way of alleviating poverty. We must understand that poverty alleviation and economic development is not only about tangible or 'hard' infrastructure. It is also about 'soft' infrastructure which concerns sound policies and empowering our mental capabilities to make rational decisions. We can spend all the money we have to encourage the youth to utilize their coconut plantation, cocoa plantations, fisheries, carpentry, sewing but how could you guarantee them a good future if they are ill-informed about issues that are affecting them? And not all of them will be farmers, or fishermen, carpenters or tailors. Some of them will be required to be leaders in their communities, in their provinces or states, or even at the national and international levels, and having proper understanding of governance and policies issues will be crucial.
As I have mentioned earlier, the concept of Youth Parliament is widely practiced throughout the world. Fiji had a very successful Youth Parliament Program until the army took over the government. They even have an Alumnus according to which the program is run. In Tonga, its Youth Parliament Program was started in 2003 after a national survey indicated that the many people were not turning out to vote at elections times. The Youth Parliament therefore was designed to run as an outreach program "to enable all the youths of Tonga to be more involved and take positive actions in decision making and development of the Nation". The process was run exactly as the system of the National Parliament of Tonga where youths are engaged in debates on matters affecting them. The result of the program was overwhelming as it raised the profile of youths and parliament and contributed to more awareness of the governance system of Tonga. Hence, voter turnout increased as people become more informed of the importance of political participation.
In Zealand, Youth Parliament has been held every three to four years since 1994. For the Program, young people from around New Zealand are chosen by their local MP to be a Youth MP. During Youth Parliament Youth MPs have the opportunity to debate a mock Bill, engage in general debate, sit on Select Committees and ask parliamentary questions of Cabinet Ministers. The New Zealand Youth Parliament Program is made to be as real as possible. Government personnel and procedures are maintained throughout the whole program.
Similar programs are also run throughout all the Parliaments of the States of Australia, in Pakisatan, India, Scotland and even England, from whom our Westminster system was adopted. In all these practical cases, the results have been universal being that it is a very important opportunity to inculcate in youths with the values and spirit of democracy, the importance of dialogue, tolerance for others views, an understanding of the concept of Parliament and its role in democratic decision-making and oversight.
|Apart from having youth parliaments in individual jurisdictions, Youth Parliaments are also held at regional levels. For instance the third Pan-Commonwealth Youth Parliament took place in Brisbane, Queensland from 19-23 April 2005 and over 70 delegates nominated by Legislatures across the Commonwealth took part in the event. Sixty per cent of delegates were from developing countries. In convening the event the Speaker of the Acting Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, Hon. Jim Fouras MP, who was the Speaker of the Youth Parliament Program stated that: "The event will facilitate young people from all around the world being able to learn about and engage in the democratic process. I hope that it will also create an awareness of issues affecting youth around the world".|
There is also the European Youth Parliament (EYP) Program which was founded in 1987. The EYP encourages independent thinking and socio-political initiative in young people and facilitates the learning of crucial social and professional skills. Since its inauguration, many tens of thousands of young people have taken part in regional, national and international sessions, formed friendships and made international contacts across and beyond frontiers. It has thus made a vital contribution towards the uniting of Europe.
Today the EYP is one of the largest European platforms for political debate, intercultural encounters, political educational work and the exchange of ideas among young people in Europe.
Monday, November 2, 2009
The National Parliament of Solomon Islands has finally hosted the Solomon Islands Youth Parliament. The event, indeed again marks another milestone in the path of parliamentary development and strenghtening in Solomon Islands and the leaders and staff of National Parliament, all donor partners and CNURA government should be applauded and congratulated for an overwhelming task and accomplishment.
From what I collected through the grape-vine there are 50 parliamentarians representing the various provinces of Solomon Islands. I believe all the provinces are well represented both numeratically and in relation to the debates in the House.
This first youth parliament is a great achievement. The task now is for us to built on the experience and work towards better things in the future.
GOD BLESS SOLOMON ISLANDS..
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
And what on earth is the government planning to achieve with the change of PEC leadership? Are they trying to penalise the former PEC Chairman for the decisions made in relation to the PER 2009 and show to the public that the blame is on the him, or is it that the former PEC Chairman has spoken out in the media and have revealed too much; much more than he should have said at least in perspective of the government?
Since I could not find a much better possible reason, I personally believe that the former is the more likely scenario for such a move as the government is trying to save its face at the eleventh hour. I recalled the statement by the Prime Minister when he announced that they (government) are taking the PEC to court because the Chairman (now former) has refused to take heed of goevrnment's advice to revoke the PER 2009, specifically the controversal $50 000 spousal grant. But what role does the government have in trying to influence the PEC when it has already made its decision? The government has no authority to call for the PEC to change a decision it has already made and has been passed through the Attorney-General's Office for eventual gazetting.
Be reminded that after the decision was made by PEC on PER 2009, it was processed through the government's 'screening process' and even the Attorney-General, as the chief legal advisor of the government has had the chance to provide appropriate legal advice to the government and PEC before the decisions were made to become legally binding and enforceable. The irony is that it is the Attorney-General, on behalf of the government, that is taking the PEC to court for the decisions it (PEC) has made on behalf of the Members of Parliament. And to an extent, it seems that the government or the Prime Minister for that matter is pre-empting the decision of the courts on the matter by demonstratting that the the PEC has made a wrong decision and as the person responsible, the Chairman is now removed.
However, puting legality question aside, I find the move by the government to replace the PEC Chairman as very childish and a shallow attempt to shift the blame from itself and save its face. We all know that the Chairman is only part of a group of people (Commission) and that the decisions he endorses as Chairman of that group (Commission) are not his own but that of the whole. And we all know too that as logic would tell us, the only source from which the various submissions received by the Commission originated from are the Members of Parliament themselves. So effectively the Prime Minister has fired the Chairman because he has endorsed their (Member's of Parliament's) wishes (submissions) for increases to thier entitlements. The Chairman was acting on behalf of the Members of Parliament (including the Prime Minister) and now that public has disagreed with the decision he (former Chairman) made for them (MPs), he is the one to be fired and to take the whole blame. Isn't that hypocritical?
Yes, that's the simple fact; he (the Chairman) has been fired because he has endorsed the submissions to increase the MP's entitlements which were submitted by the MP's themselves. It was fortunate that the media and the public have taken notice and have spoken out putting pressure on the government to revisit the PEC/PER matter. But what if it has been the other way round? Consider this scenario for the Chairman: what would have happened if he had refused to endorse the submissions at the first instance when they were before the PEC and decided not the approve the PER increases? I guess he would have suffered the same fate as he does now and got himself fired because the Members of Parliament would not be too keen to have a PEC Chairman who does listen to thier wishes.
So to me the problem and source of controversy are Members of Parliament themselves and not the Chairman of PEC or the PEC itself. The former PEC Chairman is a victim of dirty miscalculated political games by the Members themselves and changing the PEC Chairmanship will make no difference to the 'gravitational' influence politicians have over the PEC. In fact it might even be worse because now they have set a very bad precedence that as Chairman of PEC one must be subjected to government (Members of Parliament's) directives and influence, and if one fails, you will face the axe even if it means being morally correct in speaking out and putting facts right.
To me, the move by the government is out of frustration and desperation to enable them to continue to loosely grip to power and regain public support and confidence, especially in the light of the upcoming judgment day (general elections). I doubt the move will remedy the current public distrust on the government at all but will only raise more questions than answers. The simple fact is that the truth is known that it is all part of a dirty game of political maneuvering and even a simple man along the street will be able to figure it out.
Friday, October 2, 2009
The past days have been the most devastating for our Samoan and Tongan brothers and sisters, with the tsunami tragedy that has hit them.
Today the current death toll count in Samoa has exceeded the 100 mark and many people are still searching for their loved ones in between the rubbles.
It is just sad and heartening to see how people are affected even after just few days of the tragedy. In TV last night, a Samoan who was residing in New Zealand went home (Samoa) after the tsunami to check on his family just to find out that his home was no where to be seen and 12 members of his family were feared dead.
It was indeed heartening and sad a disaster, even when seeing it on TV.
In the pasy days and hours, many countries and aid donors have began sending in relief assistance and supplies to the survivors of the tragedy. It is encouraging to see humantarian aid to starting to pour into the two countries.
The sad factor however is that the disaster has happened at a time when our small island economies are hard hit with the global economic crisis and financially we are almost incapable to assist at the bilateral level.
So what this calls for is individual support if not by way of direct technical and financial support then through our prayers and thoughts. Let us pray that the children, women and men who are most affected be comforted by the Grace of God so that in the midst of darkness there is light, and in doubt and despair there is hope; where there is sadness, there is enlightenment and where there is nothing to eat or drink there is love and care to see them through.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Our athletes participating at the current mini games have done us very proud, especially the two athletes, Mr. Chris Votu and Ms. Babalu. There have been calls in the media that they deserve recognition by the country and should be dully awarded for their great achievements. But there has been mixed reaction on the suggestion, with some people saying that the current economic situation we are in does not warrant such practices.
I for one strongly believe that rewarding our highest achieving athletes (gold medal winners) is not a bad idea. It is in fact a very good one as it is definitely not a ‘bad precedence’ but a much needed motivating factor that will encourage them to perform well and win. Winning is what we want and anything to encourage our athletes to win is a positive step towards sports development in Solomon Islands. Why do you think other regional and international athletes are so successful? It is partly because their welfare is well taken care of by their respective governments and sporting bodies, including proper rewards and recognitions to winners.
Our two athletes and lone gold medal winners have indeed done our country proud and have put us back in the winning maps of regional athleticism. And pondering the idea, I would assume that any rewards to them would not be even close to fifty thousand dollars.
However, obviously the only problem with the idea right now is that our country, as well as the rest of the world is going through a very difficult time economically (this is not to say that we were much better off pre-recession than now) and awarding the two hardworking athletes with a few thousand dollars will be detrimental to the state of our economy. Understandably so! It is unquestionable that with the current state of our economy, and given the $261 million budget shortfall, every single dollar we earn counts.
So the situation is critical, very critical. We do not have enough money to reward good deeds, like that of our athletes, or for a mere 5 percent pay rise for our public officers. The only money we have is to cater for the resolution of parliament, when our hardworking MPs will be awarded their rightful entitlements including their $100 000 each terminal grants and their spouses’ $50 000. Oh well, the courts will decide that for them soon, when they make their judgment on the matter. In the meantime, since our economy is hard hit on cash, the Finance Minister can decide on our behalf the best monetary tool there is to employ to keep us moving forward financially. The good news is that we can even trade at bargain prices.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Athletics has been a dominant medal scooping sports in Solomon Islands with the likes of old runners like Jimmy Marau, Joseph Onika and Primo Higo making similar achievements in thier time.
Another individual sports which has been making great achievements in the regional games is boxing. However, with the parting of long-time trainer and administrator, the late Joe Pitu, Solomon Islands Amarture Boxing Association (SIABA) has been idle for some time. It is indeed a shame for such a great sport to be ignored as such.
For now, it is athletics that has flown our flag higher in the mini games, our best ever. The success of the two lone athletes shows the potential and raw talent that our sportsmen and women have that could be utilised to bring goodness and pride to our country. The sad thing is that the government, let alone its bodies responsible for sports, have been doing very little to satisfy the demand and growing need for proper sporting facilities.
I only hope that one day our government will be able to trully and fully support sports development in our country so that we too will be able to be offered the privilege to share the joy of hosting regional games such as the mini games and the SPG.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Prime Minister Derek Sikua moved a special motion of adjournment yesterday when Parliament resumed after just over three weeks break.
Dr Sikua cited the need for further public consultation on some very important bills which government needs to bring before this meeting.
The bills include the Political Parties Integrity Bill, a supporting constitutional amendment bill, and Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2009.
The Prime Minister says other matters that must be concluded before Parliament resumes meeting on November 12 include the work of special parliamentary select committees.
This include the work of a special select committee to look into the quality of services at the national referral hospital and the parliamentary house committee which is conducting an inquiry into the 50-thousand dollar terminal grant for M-P spouses.
Government is still holding public consultations throughout the provinces on the proposed Political Party Integrity Bill and other supporting constitutional reforms.
This week, chairman of the bills working committee John Keniapasia and other government officers are in the Makira provincial capital, KiraKira.
M-Ps who spoke on the motion, include the Opposition Leader and Leader of the Independent Group in Parliament.
Most of them spoke in support of the motion.
[Source: Solomontimes online- http://www.solomontimes.com/]
There has been calls from various statesmen including a former Governor General for Dr Sikua to step down as Prime Minister because he is no longer able to keep the government together.
But Dr Sikua says he is not losing control of government and that his support is rock solid.
He made the clarifications today while he delivered his statement to Parliament on a special adjournment motion to adjourn Parliament to November 12.
The adjournment ended a three-week recess which began on August 24 after Parliament sat for more than three months.
Prime Minister Sikua says he had adjourned parliament not because of any rift or instability in the Government as alluded to the media.
He says additional time for consultations is needed to complete work on various Bills that the government intends to table in parliament as well as various parliamentary committees are yet to complete their hearings.
Dr Sikua also says the committees are being served by the same parliamentary support.
He says the government attaches a lot of importance to their work hence the need for more time to put them together.
[Source: Solomontimes online- http://www.solomontimes.com/]
Thursday, September 24, 2009
It is ironic to see PM Sikua making such statements in the media, especially in light of the many controversial decisions and issues the CNURA government which he leads has gone through. While I hold a lot of respect and regard for the Prime Minister as a person, politically I have no reservations in voicing my opinion in this personal blog.
Consequently, the blooper of the PM's statement, I believe is the call that "if Solomon Islands want to develop, then disputes, violence, corruption and maladministration must be stopped". I find it really hard to accept that the PM himself is saying this to ordinary Solomon Islanders at a time when he it is quite obviouse that he can no longer control the behaviour of his Ministers, making prominent leaders to question his leadership capability, thus asking him to 'step down'.
Evidently, if media reports are anything to go by then the CNURA government is in total disarray. And the situation thus worsened by the mounting political pressures of a looming general election is one by which individual politics now overides the binding attire of a coalition government in its committment to pursuing and achieving and national development and growth.
The Prime Minister's statement that development cannot occur in the prevalence of disputes, violence, corruption and maladministration is unquestionable. Indeed development is an all encompassing responbility that is borne by all Solomon Islanders. But what does ordinary Solomon Islanders have to do with 'bad management of state finances'? While there are indirect correlations, obviously the solution to the issue is central only to the role and behaviour of the government of the day and instead of worsening the country's current state of fiscal stress, tightened fiscal and/or monetary policies should be employed.
Recently the government has been under immense pressure from the public to clean up its act or step aside. As the leader the PM bears the responsibility to either tighten the political grip of his coalition and make redress or otherwise relinquish prime ministership, and allow a new government or leadership to assume authority. The only reason why I believe he should opt for the former is because of the time factor as it is now too short for a new government to be formed.
So instead of making sweeping statements that are only aimed at trying to shift the attention of the public on the government to peripheral issues, the PM should make efforts to tighten his grip and control over his political flock before thier time is over. By all means personally I believe that at the moment what we have as CNURA is a very weak government that is unable even to manage its own house-keeping.
We are now at the eleventh hour for another political chapter and so far it has been indeed a challenging journey for all us. Thirty-one years onwards, Solomon Islands as a country and people are still struggling. We only hope that come the next general elections we will be able to properly and effectively exercise our democratic rights to select a parliament and form a government that can take us forward in a more sustainable and amicable manner to the moment when real 'joy, peace, progress and prosperity' can be trully realised.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I think the Prime Minister's respond to the SIPEU log of claims is demeaning of the CNURA government. For a long time the CNURA government has publicly pronounced and declared itself to be a "responsible government" and has tirelessly fought in parliament and in the media to maintain that reputation.
However, their recent actions regarding the PEC, SIPEU log of claims and on other matters of national interest (including the action of the Finance Minister to resell a confisticated vessel defying the orders of the courts) have not spoken well for the Sikua-led group.
I can't help but wonder why they can still claim to be a responsible government when their actions are speaking otherwise. The principle of 'responsible government' is an important virtue in the Westminster system of government, which Solomon Islands had adopted from the British upon gaining independence in 1978. However, as well all know, being responsible means being responsive to the needs of the people. It does not mean being ignorant and self-serving at all.
Under a responsible government leaders work to serve the people, and their interests are secondary to that of the State and the people. They work out of comittment to initiate tangible changes in development and growth, all for the common good.
The current (CNURA) government is a far cry from such a situation, and it is of no surprise that even prominent people, like the former Governor-General and Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Buddeley Devesi, have called on the Prime Minister to step aside. While such a move would be untimely and makes no difference at this point in time when elections are looming, it is agreeable to say that the government lacks strong leadership and vision.
Even some Ministers are fighting and are back-stabbing each other. They are accusing each other of actions they do in the name of their own banner, CNURA. And what is the government (or the leadership of the government- the PM and the DPM) are doing to adress all these? Nothing. No wonder that not much has been achieved so far since they came into power. It is because there are lots of 'prime ministers' and 'finance ministers' within their ranks and all they do is to work for thenselves, not for the people to whom they are responsible.
Consequently, I am certain that is is true to think that if CNURA is really a 'responsible government' as they wish to believe that they are then it is a government responsible only to itself and NOT to the people.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I think the above issue, which appeared in Solomon Star lately is an outstanding issue throughout the whole of Public Service. The issue is two-fold: abuse of government property (vehicle/office space) and immorality/ adultry (02).
And when the two are combined, the act is just too serious to be taken lightly. This issue is prevalent and the government must be seen to be taking this matter seriously. Solomon Islands is a christian country and allowing its officers and properties to be abused in such a manner is ungodly.
Jesus himself showed his disapproval on such practices (abuse) when he over-turned the tables and chased the people out of the temple where they were selling their produces.
It is really really sad to see these things happening, especially to the victims of such unethical actions. It just totally unethical and unprofessional. Mixing work or one's professional attachment with pleasure is wrong and when this occurs committments are swayed and things cannot be said to be purely work, as the intention for a better work outcome is overidden by personal desires. I mean, imagine if it was your wife or husband who is doing this and is seen doing this, and their boses are seen not to be doing enough to addressing the issue. Instead, they acted ignorantly and in such a way that allows such things to happen right under their noses. How would you feel?
The government must act now or immorality will decay the whole system and no matter how hard we work, we will always be pulled back and be put down by all our mischiefs and will never move forward as a country. For what is worst than a public service that is infested with immorality and corruption? It does not get worse than that.
Friday, September 18, 2009
It is indeed pleasant to hear about the launch of Youth Parliament. I have been fortunate to be part of the Youth Parliament Working Committee which came up with a Draft Conept Paper, which was revised by a TA and is now launched. The Working Committee comprised of enthsuastic young people who had the vision and passion to include our youths in the political debate and during meetings we could at time easily get carried away by our own imaginations.
However, one main factor of concern which stood out then and I would assume is still relevant, is the question of sustainability. This concern has both social and economic implications and clear guidelines has to be identified and set out to ensure that the program is not only a mere 'get-together' for the youths but one that holds significance and impacts directly on policy and political debate and decision-making processes in Solomon Islands at the highest level.
For me, the success of such a program should and must not be measured only on how well it will be organised and implemented in Honiara when the event is to be held but should also take into account and consideration the long-term benefits of merit and experience it will have on the participants. I mean, career-wise, participating in the Youth Parliament should hold some form of formal acrreditation for the participants so that they are formally recognised within the society.
This effect should also be extended down to the provincial and local council levels so that empowerment of youth occurs at all levels of the society. In addition to that, all authorities responsible for the youths issues and affairs should be revived and strengthened so that they are able to takeyouth related issues onboard the national policy agenda. And above all, all these could only be achieved by formulation and effective enforcement of relevant legislation in parliament that would provide the basis and backbone for the proper operations of the structure- the Youth Parliament. Without legislative backing, the Youth Parliament Program will be another esxample of long-term intentions that ended up to be ad hoc occurences in nature.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Thumbs up to the Minister, the PS, the Directors and all staff of the MDPAC for taking up the initiative to organise such as very important event to allow public servants to engage in worthwhile extra-curricular activities such as this.
By taking up the initiative, MDPAC has taken a lead role in what the ministry responsible for Sports should be doing. This makes me to wonder what the Ministry (responsible for sports) is really doing. The bottom-line however, is that MDPAC is 'coordinating' the inter-ministerial tourney and they ought to be congratulated.
However, in respect of the competition itself, I am sure the Parliament Chiefs (above) are a team to beat, especially in soccer..Or how?...hahahahaha!!!
GO PARLIAMENT GO!!!
Monday, September 14, 2009
Solo Wantoks, Wellington at the 21st Birthday Party of Sumana Freshwater's -12 Sept 09...The party featured Solo's motu tradition and ukelele singing and off course boose and fun...at the residence of Mr & Mrs Freshwater.
From Left: Michael, Ven, me, Adrian, Patrick and Huddie
[Courtesy of Glo]
Friday, September 11, 2009
PNG Day falls on th 19th of September 2009 and the Solomon Islands and Ni Vanuatu Community are also invited to join in the celebrations, to put on dance items and songs.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The recent media reports of a female Solomon Islands chinese being ivolved in illegal brewing of kwaso is worrying. To me it raises questions on the procesures and processes through which they are brought into Solomon Islands at the first place.
I mean, in many countries there are tighter criterias to satisfy before ones PR or visa application forms are approved. For instance, one has to have a prove that there is a job offer at hand. Also, in some countries there are immigration requirements based on financial position of individuals who are intending to emigrate from thier home countries into a new country.
I am not questioning the financial viability of the chinese immigrants, but the recent events (as well as past cases of passport fraud) makes me to wonder whether allowing more chinese into our country is really helping economically or not at all. We all remembered how Chinatown looked prior to the riots and its burning down and how it had been like that for many years.
Honiara is full of chinese products which are literally dumped into our economy from second-class chinese manufacturers. And with these products and merchandise came human beings; Chinese who come via Solomon Islands to Australia or USA. They love coming to Solomon Islands because they know its an easy access to Australia. And believe me many of them were not that sad during the riots because it gave them stronger backing for thier applications for overseas visas and PR.
One of their main means of economic contributions is through taxes, duties and rates which they have to incurr in order that they continue to survive in their wholesaling and retailing enterprises. Through that means they have contributed a great deal in the generation of revenue for the national economy. However, even with the paying of taxes and duties, evidence have shown that they even at times have tried to bribe their way around these legitimate processes. Ask any customs officer and he or she will confirm this to you, unless of course if he or she is thier associate or partner in crime.
Having said all that, I think it is time that the government through the relevant authorities start imposing strict measures on the entreprenual behavoir of our Chinese population and impose restrictions where necessary. I believe business activities such as pubic transport should be restricted to locals only. Today in Honiara many of the buses and taxies which are driven by locals are infact Chinese-owned. And as police findings have shown, they are also in the illegal economic activities of illegal brewing of kwaso and prostitution. Only God knows what they are going to do next. In many countries there are Chinese mafias and mobs that literally become too powerful to wipe out as they are too entangled in the politics of those sovereign nations.
From the above points, it is my opinion that Solomon Islands should start imposing restrictions on the "importation" of Chinese and their merchandise and impose stricter regulations to oversee the entreprenual behavoir of those that are alreadyin the business.
Having said all that, I must state however, that there are few 'good' Chinese out there who are just as committed as Solomon Islanders in rebuilding our economy and so stereotypical prejudices should not be the predominant culture of our reasoning and understanding.
As a former Waimapuru student, having spent the whole of my high school life there, I wish to congratulate the Government and the past and present staff and students of Waimapuru for the achievements and many challenges that the School as an instutition has encountered so far.
Waimapuru has helped to mould and sharpen many individuals over the last 25 years and it will continue to do so many more years to come. In Waima, I have made unforgetable friends, both from the staff and students communities and I have also nurtured many memorable experiences, good and bad. It was at Waima that I learnt how to speak proper pidgin and learnt and unerstand more or better about what a "town" is.
I had friends who are town-based, from schools like Woodford, Chung Wa, St. Nicholas, and so forth who have helped in my imaginations of what the "6 storey-building" looks like and how many vehilces there are in the roads of Honiara, about the bigs ships that berth there and about movies and videos. Their explanations and from what I learnt from books, and teachers my contemporary world view was moulded and shaped. I realised today that I was not the only person going through that transition but there were others. And all of these individuals, including myself will always hold a close attachment to Waimapuru.
Nationally, Waimapuru holds a very important place in the education system and structure of Solomon Islands. It has produced many prominent leaders and individuals who today are helping to develop Solomon Islands. Indeed it has lived up to its motto: "Train a Youth to Build a Nation". And being one of the only few existing government-owned schools, Waimapuru represents an important direct link to the people by the government. With the curent swift towards education privitisation, we do hope that this very important relationship between the government and the people through education is maintained or better still enhanced.
Over the years, we have heard the government's declared intention to have a national universtiy. On this note, apart from SICHE, Waimapuru can stand as a very suitable location to host a national tertiary institution of that calibre. Waimapuru has abundant land mass and fertile soil, cooperative and negotiable landowners and lovely and friendly surrounding communities. It has ready access to road and the nearest sea port is just a few kilometres away. Above all and most importantly, Makira is always a good place to be so having an unversity there will serve no harm at all(ha!ha!ha!- anyway, this is not a promotional stunt for makira).
So as we join in the silver jubilee celebrations of Waimapuru, as a nation we must reflect back on the achievements and challenges we have ecnountered so far in our education system, especially through Waimapuru, and envisage on what the future will become.
GOD BLESS WAIMAPURU...GOD BLESS SOLOMON ISLANDS
HAPPY SILVER JUBILEE
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Am sure most of us are financial members of SINPF and are concerned one way or another on its affairs, especially in the manner in which the Fund invests and expends its finances. Indirectly, as contributors of the Fund we are its owners and so we are entitled to know whats going on in there.
Over the years, we have learnt through the media and through the Fund's reports that there have been massive investments, both locally and offshore by the Fund. One of the recent local investments by the Fund is its shareholding arrangement with South Pacific Oil. SINPF owns more than 50% of the company's shares.
Hence, I personally believe that the recent media revelation that the Company's (South Pacific Oil)Managing Director is living with a S100 000 monthly salary calls for an inquiry into the affairs of SINPF. I think we as members should be demanding that the Fund's financial dealings and spendings are audited so that we are aware of its activities. I think it is time that as members we are provided with independent information, rather than inside information that will always speak for the Fund and its Board and Management, such as the Fund's financial reports which are produced and published by the Fund.
If an independent financial audit is undertaken I am sure that many more irregularities and suspicious activities could be discovered. The $10 000 monthly salary of Mr Mike Hemmer, who also happens to be the Chairman of SICCI, is only a tip of the iceberg.
KAKAMORA netball team will take on SICHE Kukum girls in the grand final of the Honiara Netball Association C division league knockout.
Kakamora a team from Makira/Ulawa Province advanced to the final after closely defeating Police 3 15-13 on Saturday at Lawson Tama netball court.
Likewise, SICHE Kukum secured a place in the final after comfortably defeating OAG 24-20 also last Saturday.
The loser’s final for C Division will be between Police 3 and OAG.
Kakamora with the leading hands of goal shooter Nelly Ramofila and goal attack Doreen Lyla kicked off the semi against Police 3 in an equal term.
In the first quarter, Kakamora scored 4 goals through Romofila and Lyla combination, while Police 3 replied with two goals shared by goal shooter Ellen Kinita and Serah Leamy.
In the second quarter, both teams contested strongly and held 1-0 in favor of the Kakamora girls.
In the third quarter, Kakamora maintained their composure and won 6-5 to further extend their lead 11-7 to put them in a better position.
In the final quarter, Police 3 came back strong to win 6-4 but was unfortunate to level the goal.
They fell short with two goals to end the game 15-13 to Kakamora girls.
In the game between OAG and SICHE Kukum, both teams displayed the same strength.
However, SICHE got the upper hands to win the game after taking the lead from first to third quarter.
In the first quarter, they settled down OAG hope with 7-3 but OAG returned strongly in the second quarter to equalize 5-5.
SICHE then quickly turn over the game to win 8-5 to settle well ahead with 20-13.
OAG despite running behind the score sheet put their last attempt in the final quarter manage to throws down SICHE Kukum 7-4 but could not catch up.
It was SICHE Kukum who went off happily with 24-20 to get them through to the final play off.
In the B Division, SICHE Panitana will take on Green Berets 3 in the final knock out play off.
SICHE Panatina took free points after its opponent Thunder Flukes did not turn up while Green Berets 3 marches on to the final after defeating Kolozonga 32-27.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Reading thru Solomon Star (solomonstarnews.com), I came across one very interesting piece of 'news', which appeared under the above subject.
It was interesting to see Sir Nathaniel Waena actively participating once again in the local political mainstream. His comments were made in relation to the political party bill which was tabled before Parliament in the last sitting.
Am sure this showing of the former G-G is an indication that he may be a standing candidate in the coming general elections. And why wouldn't he be? In this democratic world he is not prevented by anything whatsoever to rejoin politics and to run for elections.
However, looking at it more closely, I wondered that if I were him I would just keep out of active politics and dedicate my time to do other things that may help me to maintain the stature I have gained, being a one-time G-G, rather than opting to going back into the muddy waters of Solomon Islands politics.
Am not saying that being a politician would lower that stature. What am saying is that he can still do as much to help people and bring about change, being a former G-G. He does not have to be a politician or an MP to do so. Indeed he has gained a reputation that only a few Solomon Islanders have been able to acquire and putting this reputation to good use would not only benefit a lot of needy people but would bring about many changes just as much as a good politian would do.
However, as I have said, he has all the right to re-enter politics. I am raising this point only as a matter of personal interest questioning "whats life after being a G-G in Solomon Islands"? So far we have seen that there are only two things: One is to remain active by re-entering politics if not as an MP then as an advisor or political appointee, and two is to get out of the limelight and be unheard of unless ones perspective is sought.
Personally, this trend is saddening because I for one have envisaged a former G-G taking up a much more proactive and apolitical role in spear-heading charity activities and humantarian drives at least for a few years after being relieved of G-G before actual retirement into old age, rather than anything else.
But again this is just my own ignorant opinion.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Just another another piece of thought from me. It has been a rough week and since weekend is coming up I feel it is important that I re-visit the intellectual gym to pump some blood into my brain cells before the week-end fever deprives me of it all. So I deciced to talk about something we all know about so that I do not strain me old brain too much. Here is how it goes....
AS you are aware, Solomon Islands adopted a Westminster system of Parliamentary Democracy when it gained political autonomy from the British in 1978. It has a unicameral or single chamber parliament, which comprises 50 Members elected through a first-past-the-post universal suffrage system of voting. All rules and procedures relating to elections are contained in the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act [Cap 87].
The Westminster system requires, by convention that parliament is to be divided into political affiliations so that there are ‘checks and balances’ to the system. In Solomon Islands this convention is paved by Section 13 (1) of the Constitution, where it states that ... “no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to political parties or to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests”. This creates the necessity for the formation of political parties.
Not only that they are formed in exercise of people’s freedom of expression and association, but political parties form the very basis of the Westminster system of government. They determine and dictate the political status quo of the state and it is through their existence that the notion of ‘separation of powers’ between the legislature and the executive can be to the least distinguishable. As we all know, this notion of separation of powers extends beyond just the legislature and the executive, to include the judiciary, which is the third arm of governance under the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.
Parliament includes the Sovereign and the legislature. The Sovereign in the case of Solomon Islands is the Head of State, who is the Queen of England, represented by the Governor – General. The Governor -General is “appointed by the Head of State in accordance with an address from Parliament “. In practice, the Governor-General has to be elected by Members of Parliament before being appointed by the Queen, upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The legislature comprises the 50 Members of Parliament, and the Speaker of the House, who himself is also elected by the Members to preside over sittings of parliament and to oversee other parliamentary matters relating to the affairs of Members.
Parliament exists to ‘make’ and ‘unmake’ laws for the good governance and prosperity of the people of Solomon Islands. Parliament is also responsible to oversee and scrutinise the work of the executive to see that it is responsibly expending public money and is held to account for its actions. In Solomon Islands, this role is exercised through the parliamentary committee system, the Office of the Auditor-General and also by the Official Opposition Group, which in practice may or may not include the Independent Grouping. In the current Parliament, it is quite difficult to determine whether a member is independent or not because while he is registered as an independent member he may also be a member of the government caucus. The only member that could be seen as ‘independent’ is the leader of the independent group himself, but whose following is questionable.
Within parliament there are various committees, known as the Parliamentary Select Committees, which could be either Standing or Special Select Committees. Standing Select Committees are permanent committees appointed by the Speaker of Parliament to oversee specific issues and tasks. Currently there are five (5) Standing Select Committees, namely the Parliamentary House Committee, the Bills and Legislations Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Constitution Review Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Special Select Committees are established by parliament to inquire, analyse or review certain issues that are of national importance. Usually, special select committees are adhoc committees appointed by the Speaker after a passing of a bill in parliament to deal with specific issues and to report back to parliament on its findings. Once the report is presented to parliament, the committee is dissolved.
An example of a special select committee is the current Special Select Committee into the Quality of Medical Services Provided at the National Referral Hospital. The committee was appointed after a bill was moved and passed in Parliament (for a committee to be established) “to inquire into and report on the quality of medical services provided at the National Referral Hospital and in particular how they are managed and administered and how they may be improved”. The functions and responsibilities of Standing Select Committees and other procedural matters relating to Special Select Committees are contained in the Standing Orders of the National Parliament of Solomon Islands, which could be accessed at the National Parliament of Solomon Islands website.
The executive is provided by parliament, as its members are also part of Parliament. Here, the ‘separation of powers’ is vague. However, it is more distinguishable when looking at their separate functions. The executive is what we commonly refer to as the ‘government’. This includes all Members of the cabinet and the government caucus; the Prime Minister, all Ministers, and government backbenchers (government supporters but non-ministers) and the whole of the public service apparatus. This is distinguishable from the legislature as the government rules the day, not the legislature which includes both the Prime Minister and his Ministers, government backbenchers and the Members of the Official Opposition.
The judiciary is generally the legal fraternity, which includes the court system. In Solomon Islands the highest court of the land is the Court of Appeal, and then there is the High Court, the Magistrates Court, the Local Courts and the Customary Land Appeal Court.
The notion of separation of powers, therefore exists inorder to achieve limited goverment. This means that inorder that powers of those in leadership or those who assumes authority and responsibilty are not abused, there has to be limitations. This limitation is measured by the separation of the roles and functions of the different arms of state and their spheres to manouvre. While this notion may be vague in westminster system of parliamentary democracry, the underlying principle is that the Sovereign or the Head of State reigns, but the government rules, as long as it has the support and the confidence of Parliament, which represents the people.
The confidence of parliament on the executive government is vital to ensure that there is stability in governance. Changes to that confidence will result in political instability or change of government. When parliament has confidence on the government, this means that the government has the number to rule. If numbers change in favour of the Opposition, a government can be voted out on the floor of parliament through a vote of no confidence, or is forced to resign. A government can prove that it still holds the confidence of the House if a no confidence motion moved against it is defeated. So in Solomon Islands political stability is measured in its obviouse sense by the frequent changes in government or political administration. While only one motion of no confidence has been voted and passed on the floor of parliament, that is when the Sogavare-led GCC government was voted out by a motion of no confidence moved by the current Prime Minister, Dr. Derek Sikua, then the deflected minister of education, only one political adminstration has been able to rule for a full term of four (4) years.
The common arguement is that the high political instability is due to a weak political party system, whereby governments are not formed along political party lines or policy manifestation. Instead goverments are formed after fierce political lobbying which involves large sums of money. There are also other pull factors related to the covetous effects of the ever enticing ministerial renumeration and entitlements. Individual Members are free to take sides or change political affiliation whenever or wherever they see it fit, based on thier personal or professional judgements. There is no strong longterm political party or group affiliation. Political parties are formed and often become superactive prior to national elections but do shrink away once the elections are over, though groups may be formed among wining candidates for the immediate purpose of electing a prime minister and the formation of a government. This situation gives rise to a very corruptive and politically vulnerable situation whereby a member’s loyalty can be used to bargain for greater economic returns. Moreover, disagreements on policy or development issues within the ruling group can often result in political disintegration and regrouping which could eventually topple a ruling government.
This political fluidity amongst elected leaders/politicians does not allow for sustainability in governance. It creates an environment whereby there is lack of profound focus and committment on putting policies into fruition, but to try and keep the ruling group or coalition together. Hence, energy and resources and committed to sustain peripherial concerns and development goals that meet the aspirations of the ‘rural man’ are ignored. In its excess, political ambition precedes national interests (as could be seen in the recent case of PEC) and the short-term goal of getting re-elected into parliament becomes the prime objective.
As briefly mentioned ealier, ministerial renumeration and entitlement is also a great factor generating a pull effect to the number game and political tangling, towards a ruling government. Minsters, together with the Chairmanship positions in the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and Parliamentary Select Committees carry very attractive packages. Hence, execpt for the Leader, members of the Opposition are regarded as ordinary members and are renumerated as normal with few or no further entitlements. Whilst, I see this as a contributing factor relating to the political instability in Solomon Islands, I must clarify that personally, I am in total opposition to the ever increasing MPs’ entitlements. For certainly, the seeminly infinitive increases in the Members’ entitlements is not the solution to the issue. The solution to the issue is not one that is monitory but rather ethical and morally related. Strengthening political parties will certainly create greater sense of responsibility and committment to leadership and governance, ensuring the convention of responsible government. Members strong affiliation to thier parties will rid off the tendency and practice of intensive lobbying aimed specifically at removing a political administration. Rather, Members will in the long run be able to realise and appreciate the importance of policy manifestation and the formulation of sound development policies and having common values, geared towards achieveing the greater common good.
Political parties, when strengthened and properly functioning, provide a vital link between the people, Parliament and the government. The competition for power of the state, exercised in the Parliament is a competition organised by and through political parties. It is party strength in the House after elections that decides who is to govern. It is the parliamentary party or parties with the support of the House (and the ability to ensure supply- the money to fund the state’s functions) that provides the government. There is no need for dubious political lobbying in the process of government formation.
If our political party is strenghtened people will eventually learn to vote along policy values rather on than on personal affiliations, choosing to vote for the political party that preaches sound and pragmatic policies that he or she can easily relate to. Thus, a stronger political party system will not only have a direct positive impact on our elected political leaders, and government system but will also to an extent impact on voters behaviour, which currently is heavily culturally-oriented.
The scrutiny role of parliament will be strengthened. And, in effectively carrying out its work Parliament will be able to strengthen the roles and functions of other oversight bodies such as the Office of the Auditor General, the Ombudsman and the Leadership Code Commission. It may also be able to establish a Code of Ethical Code of Ehtical Conduct for Members of Parliament to guide their conduct and behavour in the exercise of thier official duties and responsibilities.
Yes, you read it right. The governmet is suing or has sued the PEC for its failure to revoke its decision of granting terminal grant of $50 000 for a MP's spouse. This is how Solomon star reported the matter: that the government has filed a case against PEC,through the Attorney-General's Office because the PEC has failed to act on its (government's) advice for it (PEC) to revoke its decision on the said matter. I was reading through old news items (24 August 2009)at the Solomon Star website (www.solomonstarnews.com) when I came across the article. Having read about all the negative reactions that has been written in the media regarding the decision of PEC, I guess there is no better angle to view the issue than that.
It really striked me how politics is played nowadays. In the article it was quite funny how the Prime Minister makes it sound as if the government is really really angry with the PEC (an 'independent body')for not revoking its decision after it was told to do so by the government. What a turn of events, isn't it? And according to the article, the Prime Minister himself said that. Mind you I am not questioning the fact that the case has been referred to the court. What I am stunned about is the PM's unconscious revelation on the issue, as reported by the Star, that prior to filing the case the government has ordered the PEC to revoke its decision. He could just have said that they have refered the matter to the courts seeking declaration on the constitutionality of the issue rather than revealing that it only acted to refer the matter to the courts after PEC failed to listen to its advice or rather its directive.
Remember PEC is an independent body and even the government should not influence its decisions through unregulated means, whatever the circumstances, except through the judicial or law-making processes. Reading the statement of the PM as reported by the article only made me to become even more suspicious that even prior to reaching its decision to award the spousal terminal grant, PEC has received external influences and pressure to decide the way it did.
Reading the article makes me to further ponder on the issue and can't help but wonder how and from whom the PEC has received the submissions for the increases in entitlements at the first place, and on what grounds those decisions were reached. Given the lack of information and my failure to settle on any logical reasoning I silently resolved that it would really be a very interesting thing if this information is exposed and PEC settles its score on the sheet
However, reading the article I was quite disappointed that it had failed to highlight with enthusiasm the driving force behind the immediate reactions of the government, the PEC and now the courts: that is the victory of the voice of the people. This is unprecendented in Solomon Islands and we must all be proud that our voices have been finally heard. It should serve as an eye-opener for a shift towards better collaboration and consultation between the people and state apparatus in the future when dealing with affairs that can have overaching effects and consequences. And we should now be convinced that peoples' power can actually work when the system allows it to.
While the finality of the case is still unknown the fact that system is being used to 'check' itself in its enforcement is a positive development. We only hope that if the courts rule that the PEC's decision is revoked then at least some of the items in the log of claims of SIPEU could now be afforded, or at least seriously considered. With our fingers crossed, lets just hope for the better.
At least the point has been made and heard. Hopefully if the claims are not addressed now (given the global economic turmoil and the sorry state of our economy)then it better be soon because for sure they will never be reversed and hence will always be used as bargaining chips by SIPEU in the future. The government should know better and at least show some committment in addressing them now, if not later. It (government) should realise that addressing the claims is inevitable and an outright ignorance on its part would be detrimental.
In relation to the PEC and spousal grant, I believe that the current government's reaction, is but an indication that the system that we have is workable and is useful in achieving many of our political problems; that is, if it is properly understood and utilised to achieve common good. On the other hand it can also be abused to the benefit of others, a pocket of the society who are somewhere up there in the hierarchy of social stratification.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I want to draw your attention to the draft Federal Constitution which was released not long ago. The draft Federal Constitution was reviewed by the Constitutional Congress (CC) and the Eminent Persons Advisory Council (EPAC) of the Constitutional Reform Program. For more information regarding the work done by the Constitutional Reform Unit (CRU) who administers the work done towards the new Federal Constitution, check the website: www.sicr.gov.sb. Hence, you will see the draft Federal Constitution on that website.
You might have your own views on what the Federal system is and whether it is the ‘right’ part for us to undertake. However, I believe if we are to adopt the Federal system, Solomon Islands will not be the same as it is since independence. For instance, the nine (9) provinces will become nine (9) separate states with their own constitutions unless the provinces agree to merge as one big state as provided for under section 151 (4). It will need human resources to fill the positions in those respective states to be and even a change of mindset to the idea of state and nationhood. For instance, according to the Former Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Solomon S Mamaloni, he decribed the Solomon's as ' a nation conceived but never born' ( Mamaloni, 1992: 14). In addition, he stated, "Solomon Islands....has never been a nation and will never be a nation and will never become one" ( Mamaloni, 1992: 10). These sentiments were echoed during the 10th Independence aniversary of Solomon ISlands. It was ten years after what Mamaloni asserted that we had experience the ethnic tension and now ten years after the ethnic tension moves are now progressing towards Federalism as the alternative to the existing system we have enjoyed for the last three decades. The question is, will this Federal system create the idea of nationhood and make Solomon Islands a nation that Mamaloni seem pessimistic about? However, the former Governor General, George Lepping stated in support of the new Constitution that,'it will help prevent [future] ethnic tensions' (Solomon Times online, 17th August 2009). This suggestion might be presumptous bearing in mind what Mamaloni had professed regarding the framentation and the ethnic divide in the Solomon Islands.
I hope by reading the draft Federal Constitution, this will give us an insight of what the federal system will be like for us. Hence, this will provide the bases to which we can critique the content of it and understand what the likely implications will be for the Federal government and offcourse the individuals states that make the sovereign nation of Solomon Islands. I understand that the draft Federal Constitution need public feedback before the second draft can be released but i personally think it needs to be scrutinise throughly by the public before pursue the Federal system.
Friday, August 28, 2009
As reported in the media, the $50 000 spousal grant awarded by the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) to MP's spouses has been referred to the Parliamentary House Committee for inquiry and/or review. This procedure is provided for under Section 70 of the Standing Orders of the National Parliament of Solomon Islands, which allows the Parliamentary House Committee "to consider and advise appropriate authorities on such matters that are connected with Members' terms and conditions of service" and "to examine and make recommendations on any matters which are connected with the provisions of sections 62 and 69 of the Constitution" to name but a few of its functions. Also the Attorney-General on behalf of the government has also referred the matter to the courts for clarifications. These are two totally separate processes and the decision of the court will not affect the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry into the matter, and vice versa.
Thus I hereby wish to share my layman's perspective on the issue and hopefully generate some discussions and in so doing we can all share and learn from each others thoughts.
My layman's view of the $50 000 terminal grant for MP's spouses is that it is unconstitutional and does not serve as a good precedence for the future of Solomon Islands in relation to responsible governance and sound democracy. I will present my argument based on Constitutional provisions related to the following:
(1)The purpose and function of the PEC and,
(2)Factors of consideration required for the determination and/or amendment of parliamentary entitlements by PEC.
The purpose and function of PEC .
As you are aware, the PEC is established under the Section 69A of the Constitution of Solomon Islands ... "to determine the entitlements of the parliamentarians and to amend them by yearly review..." [Section 69B (1) of the Constitution].
Entitlements is defined by Section 69C (2)(a) to "include salaries, allowances and such other benefits, services or facilities, whether in cash or otherwise, as the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission may consider it necessary to be provided to the Parliamentarians to enable them to maintain the dignity of their office". A parliamentarian is defined by Section 69C (2)(b) to mean "the Prime Minister, Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Independent Group, the Deputy Speaker and all other members of Parliament, whether or not, Parliament is in session or in sitting".
Hence, obviously the main function of PEC is to determine the entitlements of parliamentarians who, as defined are elected politicians. That responsibility is exclusive and only people who fall under the definition of being a parliamentarian are eligible to 'receive' or 'benefit' from the entitlements. Sections 69B (1), 69B (2)(b)(iii), 69B(2)(c)(i), 69B(2)(c)(iv), 69B (3)(b), 69C (1) and 69C (2)(a) of the Constitution all used the word parliamentarian and never in the Constitution has the word 'parliamentarian's spouse' appeared. The only provision that comes close to including a parliamentarian's spouse is Section 69B (3)(a). However, the use of the word and in 'parliamentarians and their families' instead of or to me implies that their families are not mutually exclusive of the parliamentarians and hence they can only 'receive' and 'benefit' indirectly through the parliamentarian. It emphasises that in between the PEC and the family is the parliamentarian and the family is related or connected to the PEC through the parliamentarian. Therefore, it is wrong for the PEC to directly award the 'family' which includes the spouse with any benefits without channelling it through the parliamentarian entitlements. Any benefits that the family should receive must or can only be awarded and considered as part of the 'parliamentarian's entitlement'.
In addition, awarding the spousal terminal grant would create a dangerous paradigm that by being part of a parliamentarian's family equals automatic qualification for direct benefits from the PEC. It would mean that even the sons and daughters of a parliamentarian can be given terminal grants if approved by PEC. And by directly awarding the terminal grant to the spouses outside of the normal parliamentarian's entitlements payment the PEC literally recognises the spouse as a parliamentarian. This judgment is made based on the understanding that at the end of the term the spousal terminal grant of $50 000 will be paid directly to the spouse and not through the parliamentarian as this is totally separate from the parliamentarians terminal of $100 000. Obviously, in the long run the current spousal grant will only create more controversy and confusion by the public in the functions of the PEC. A spouse is a 'wife' or 'husband' and not a parliamentarian as defined by Section 69C (2)(b) of the Constitution and the PEC only determines the entitlements of Members of Parliament, as clearly stipulated by Section 69B (1). The law as it currently stands does not regard a spouse of a parliamentarian as having similar privileges as the parliamentarian himself hence they are not entitled any direct benefits under the PER.
Factors to consider by the PEC in its determination and/or amendment of Parliamentary Entitlements.
I will now move on to the second ground of my submission, which is based on the factors provided for by the Constitution for the PEC to consider in its determination and/or amendment of Parliamentary Entitlements.
Section 69B (2) (a), (b) & (c) of the Constitution outlines a number of factors that the PEC has to consider in exercising its powers. Section 69B (2)(b) (i) & (i) includes:
(i) the state of the national economy and the financial position of the Government;
(ii) movements in the level of the pay and other entitlements admissible to other persons in employment;
Sections 69B (3)(b) stipulates that (3) "In making or amending the regulations, the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission shall –
(b) secure that the salaries and other entitlements of Parliamentarians increase at no less a rate than the rate of increase, if any, of salaries and entitlements (taken as a whole) of the public officers.
When looking at these constitutional provisions in relation to the PEC's award of spousal terminal grant, it is to very obvious that the members of the PEC have not complied with the above factors of consideration.
Solomon Islands is still recovering from the experience of the ethnic tension which has brought chaos to the social and economic systems of the country. Hence, the fiscal position of the economy is far from being stable and the peace and security in the society is still very fragile. Additionally, it has been predicted that in the 5 to 10 years time logging revenue, the economy's biggest earner, will drop due to depletion of our trees. The fishery industry continues to struggle financially and the challenges faced by the tourism are far from over. Above all, with the current global economic crisis, there has never been a time in our short history that our economy needs salvaging. Therefore, obviously the state of the national economy does not warrant for the award of $50 000 spousal grant, let alone further increases to the parliamentary entitlements.
Since 2000 the parliamentary entitlements have increased to almost 100% in total. Comparably, increases in the minimum wage of employees, the COLA and other salary/allowance adjustments/entitlements of public officers have not even reached 10%. The SIPEU log of claims and other outstanding claims by other peoples within the country have been long ignored by successive governments. Yet the PEC has seen it fit to approve the $50 000 spousal terminal grant, which in itself is a total payment of $2,500,000, to be paid out from public funds. This amount, added to the current parliamentary entitlements will create a massive burden on the government and economy of the country when the current parliament dissolves and all the payments are due.
Given these considerations, it does not require much effort to figure out that the above factors of consideration, provided for by the Constitution to the PEC in the exercise of its powers have not been adhered to by the Members of PEC when the spousal grant was determined. Hence, in my layman's view I strongly believe that the award of the spousal terminal grant of $50 000 by PEC is not only unconstitutional but sets a bad precedence for responsible governance and sound democracy in Solomon Islands. Thus, it must be nullified and the PEC's decision revoked.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Once upon a time in the history of Solomon Islands, the JM saga was the sweetest talk among the people. JM or 'Julian Moti' was the name most spoken and written about in every radio, newspaper and internet news sites in Solomon Islands, Australia and regional media. This was the period when the person bearing the name, JM, was appointed and served as the Attorney-General of Solomon Islands.
In Canberra, JM was the worst enemy, the most wanted man. Details of his past and present years in life were analysed, scrutinised and explained in relation to his strengths and mostly weaknesses. All aspects of his life were put under the x-ray. Standing out of all these were the child sex crimes he allegedly committed in Vanuatu in late 90s, which according to media reports were thrown out of court, as the presiding magistrate ruled that he had no case to answer. A Fijian-born Australian citizen, JM had spent most of his time prior to his appointment as Attorney – General of Solomon Islands travelling in and out of that Australia. All these time he was unnoticed and ignored by Australiand authorities. His appointment as Attorney – General however ignited Canberra's interest on JM. Australian claimed that it has found new evidence of the case and the media reported that the Vanuatu magistrate who heard the case against JM had been bribed by JM to dismiss the case in exchange for JM's paying for the magistrate to study at the University of Western Sydney. The report cited university records and evidence obtained by the Australian Federal Police in September 2004. His appointment as Solomon Islands Attorney-General by the Sogavare-led Grand Coalition for Change Government (GCCG) therefore was heavily criticised by Canberra, and a mad media campaign was launched against this government decision. On several occasions, the then Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Alexander Downer even wrote open letters to the Solomon Islands media, explanation Canberra's stand on the matter.
Among the Forum Island states, JM was the common denominator of their rows. Because of JM Melanesian solidarity was tested. Papua New Guinea's (PNG) Grand Chief and Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare was implicated in a 'Delta Force-like' airlift of JM from PNG, where he was being released on bail and was awaiting court on charges relating to breach of PNG's immigration laws. He was dropped at an isolated Munda Airstrip by the PNG Defence Force Plane that airlifted him to Solomon Islands. Both Prime Ministers of PNG and Solomon Islands immediately denied involvement in the 'airlift'. Vanuatu was also dragged into the JM saga as the child sex charges, which Canberra now has new evidences to put to retrial under its own laws, were committed there. Through the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji and the islands of the region were involved in the saga as the Forum, then chaired by the Prime Minister of Samoa, strongly criticised Solomon Island's boycott of the Forum Meetings in 2007. The Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare decided not to attend the Forum Meeting in protest of what he sees as "heavy Australian influence on the sovereign affairs of an independent state" of Solomon Islands relating to the MJ saga.
Sogavare's own course of actions and decisions in relation to the JM saga, himself being a personal friend of JM, may have cost him his grip of power and common political support within his coalition government and among the people. Many members of his government expressed displeasure in his decision to boycott the forum meeting in Apia and on how he has handled the JM saga. The Prime Minister's Office was raided by police, led by members of the Participating Police Force under RAMSI and the office fax machine was confisticated to seek evidence of the Prime Minister's involvement in the 'airlift'. The Minister of Immigration was also arrested and questioned for his role in the matter. For Canberra a shift in the political 'status quo' in Solomon Islands and a change of government was the greatest wish at that time. They must have been wishing too hard- but with little measurable collateral such as the expulsion of their High Commissioner- as in December, 2007 this wish was granted. The GCCG was removed from office on the floor of parliament through a motion of no confidence, moved by the current Prime Minister, making it to be the first no confidence motion to succeed in the history of Solomon Islands.
I can still clearly recall that day, it was the second Thursday of December 2007 and JM as the Attorney-General was also in parliamentary attendance. A very unwavering individual, despite the obvious shift in numbers to his disadvantage, the then Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was quite content to see it through to the end and defied the practice in Solomon Islands whereby Prime Ministers tend to resign on the floor of parliament in the eve of a motion of no confidence they were certain to lose. The motion was passed and it was obvious that the outcome of the no confidence vote was a shock to JM. That day unlike any other, he remained in parliament hours after it was adjourned, basically I guessed just to allow time for him to really come to terms with the reality of the situation. He was laughing but his face showed it all that it was indeed not the best day of his entire life. That day, Thursday 13th December 2007, marked the beginning of the end in the sweetness of the name "Julian Moti" in the taste of the media in Solomon Islands and in Australian and regional media.
Not long after the current Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement (CNURA) government took office JM was deported to Australia to face justice. For me personally, that was the last time I have ever heard of the JM saga.
While the outcome of his case is nothing of a concern at all to me, my uneasiness lies on the current silence of the media on the case. Why the sudden lose of interest? Mind you, I am not saying that the media has stopped reporting on the issue. What I am saying is that it is evident that there has been significant loss of interest on the case. This turn of events is quite disappointing because for me the JM saga has just reached its most interesting segment. This is where the media has been trying to justify or show otherwise; the outcome being that the alleged culprit is finally put to justice or whether the conspiracy that many commentators have sought to believe will be proven to be true- Canberra hated JM because of his strong criticisms of Australian foreign policy and did not want him to be the Attorney-General General of a 'fragile, weak neighbour'.
On reflection, the JM saga has indeed tested the potency of many aspects of regionalism in the region, exposing weaknesses and reinforcing strengths. It has contributed to the fall of a sovereign government and to an extent reemphasised Australia's neo-colonialist 'police state' approach to foreign policy and regionalism in the region.
I think you will agree with me in support of the CNURA government's move to appoint the Commission of Inquiry into Land Transactions on Guadalcanal. Reading from www.solomontimes.com the Commission is expected to start soon, its Members having been appointed by the Prime Minister, Dr. Derek Sikua.
On the composition of the Commission, I think the decision by the Prime Minister to appoint members from various Melanesian countries is wise as they may have experiences relevant to our case. For instance, Fiji has a very comprehensive land tenure system in place administered by the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB), thus the inclusion of Pastor Manua Rabuka is encouraging. Other members include Stephen Tahi from Vanuatu and Mr Brenton from Papua New Guinea who is the current chair of the Commission and former Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into the April rioting in Honiara in 2006.
Land issues in Solomon Islands, especially in Guadalcanal are complex, especially when dealing with alienated lands and customary land issues within or around the Honiara town boundary. I recalled in mid 2008 when the then Leader of Independent Group, Hon. Peter Shanel, moved a private members motion in parliament to look into the same issue. However his motion was defeated, as the government voted against it on the grounds that that issue if land is a sensitive issue. Now that the Commission is established we do hope and pray that outstanding issues related to land and settlements will be resolved.
The Commission of Inquiry is part of national reconciliation policy to resolve problems which are perceived as causes to the ethnic crisis. It is part of the current peace rebuilding process which includes the establishment of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission.