Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leadership and RCDF in the Solomon Islands

I want to add to what Derrick asserted on the topic Leadership in the Solomon Islands and its relation with the RCDF. I understand the issue received considerable commentries from Solomon Islanders living abroad ( i presume most are students) and those at home ( Solomon Islands). In doing so, i would like to express my views and opinion about this subject on this blog. Thanks Derrick for allowing to post this on your blog.Firstly, I will discuss the issue of leadership in the Solomon Islands more broadly but confine to our elected leaders. Secondly, the issue of RCDF and how it became a ‘public outcry’. Thirdly, how leadership tend to influence the manner in which RCDF has been managed.

The issue of leadership in the Solomon Islands is not a new phenomenon. We have leadership crisis in the past whereby leaders are accuse of not showing signs of good leadership. Since independence, leaders were accused of corruption. As discussed in the other topic on corruption, it comes down to the issue of leadership as well. Therefore, it is part and parcel of what we call leadership 'crisis' where leaders involved in corrupt practices for their own interests and gains.

If we look back in history and try to figure out attempts made to address the issue of leadership, we’ll see that there were attempts being made to address the problem. For instance, globally the issue of 'good governance' that came into the spotlight in the early 1990's after the World Bank had identified a crisis of governance in sub-Sahara Africa, the underlying issue was leadership. For instance, aid money aimed to address development ended up in the hands of corrupt leaders. As government is one of the actors in governance therefore it is integral to have good leaders. If leaders are corrupt then how come do we expect them to make legislations and decisions in the interest of its citizens? Therefore, good governance in this case has a lot to do with leaders or for us to have good leaders that are accountable to their actions and transparent in their dealings.

In the Solomon Islands, what does ‘good governance’ mean for our leaders? Is it a new concept for them? No, I don’t think so. Do our leaders attain trainings or workshops that emphasis the importance of upholding good governance in the past? Yes, I believe they do and our leaders know what is expected of them to do. But why are they not performing to the standard that is expected of them as leaders? That is where the problem lies. I suggest the book authored by Kabini Sanga and Keith D.Walker entitled; ‘Apem Moa Solomon Islands Leadership’ should be the guide for our leaders. They should read and digest because we need our leaders to improve on their performance if they reflect on their performance for the last years or so and had failed miserably then they need to adjust in order to become good leaders. Otherwise bae end up same same nomoa. Well though the book is not confine for national leaders only but one in which it covers leadership from the village, schools and organisation, it should be seen as a guide to remind our leaders of where they are heading.

It is sad to hear people are talking about ‘good governance’ and now are making fun of it. For instance, ‘umi always talk about good governance nomoa bata no anything happen nomoa’ (we always talk about good governance but there is nothing happening). What does this imply? Who’s not doing anything in this case? Is it the people, the government or the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)? In the Solomon Islands, I think the problem is that we are not working together. For example, the NGOs (TSI), the government and the people are not working together to enhance good governance. Why is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee (FRC) during the RAMSI review hearing held on 19th September, 2008 question the Chairman of the TSI about the definition of the good governance? I see that as an absurd question for a leader to ask. This is a clear demonstration of how our leaders see the TSI and now with the later calling on the MPs to throw out the Parliamentary Entitlements this will make it more complicated to assert good governance in the Solomon Islands. However, it has been noted that “good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Very few countries and societies have come close to achieving good governance in its totality”(http://www.unescap.org/pdd/prs/ProjectActivities/Ongoing/gg/governance.pdf). Therefore, if we are to take Solomon Islands, we will end up with the many countries where the achievement of good governance in its totality will be far remote. Hence, the way I see it is that we are not getting anywhere or maybe at a snail’s pace.

I am optimistic that we can address the leadership problem facing our country. Although I understand that there is no 'quick fix' and 'one size fits all' to address the leadership crisis in the Solomon Islands, I believe there is a way for us to deal with it. The question on who will take the initiative in addressing our leadership problem is none other than us, Solomon Islanders. It is not RAMSI or those from the ‘outside’ to tell us what we should do and shouldn’t do, although I acknowledge the fact that we listen to their advice but again it is us who decides on what is best for us. We are the ones to address our leadership problem. The challenge is on us to do something positive to address the problems we have experienced in the country for the last 30 years. You might ask, 'ma osem hao na ba umi duim ia?' Well in my view let’s pull our resources together in building a better Solomon Islands for us in the future. We have people with the knowledge and experience in how things work such as those with the knowledge in development, planning, economics, education, lawyers, academics and so forth (think tanks). Also not forgetting to consider our indigenous knowledge in looking into how leadership can work and do work better for us.

In addition, with those of us aspiring for higher knowledge in the various fields we are trained for, the question is, how can we utilise the academic knowledge we aspire or acquired to help address leadership in the Solomon Islands? Hence, this brings me to the issue of RCDF. As Derrick had asserted that the idea is good and i for one supported the intention of RCDF. It is for people in rural areas and they are the ones who suppose to benefit from the RCDF. Is it a new fund for rural development? No....hem too wanfala olo samthing ba. Rural development in the Solomon Islands comes with the idea of decentralisation. That is shifting development away from the centre to the periphery or from the predominant practice of centralisation to decentralisation. It started with the Small Islands Community and Provinces Special Assistance (SICOPSA) grant by Mamaloni in 1989. However, prior before that Mamaloni introduced the Provincial Government Bill in 1981 which was later passed by the Parliament and became the Provincial Government Act of 1981. That was a significant step towards rural development in the Solomon Islands. In 1993, under the Hilly regime, they abolish SICOPSA grant and replace that with RDF. In 1995, the SINURP goverment led by Mamaloni reinstated the SICOPSA grant and increase the CDF [RDF] based on the size of the population. Note that at that time the number of constituencies was still 38. Since then the CDF (now renamed by RDCF) was the under the discretion of the MP up till now. What does that mean? Ma MP na boss....who he/she wants to give as part of rural development in his/her constituency is up to him/her. The usual practice is to thank those who voted for the MP(supporters of the MP-either funding development projects or giving cash handouts to the people is under the discretion of the MP) As such it is up to the people to do what they want with the cash money. Whereas others in the constituency would to wait and see whether there project proposal will be considered. But why is it that people nowadays seem to be more critical about the use of RCDF? Why there was silence in the past? Is it because of the amount that involves? For instance, in the past it was based on population meaning that a constituency with a small population receives less than what a constituency with a big population receives. Is it because of lack of information about all these things (RCDF) that prevented people from talking about these things in the past? Is it the level of education that prevented people from questioning what they see as not right in their constituencies? These are broad questions but if we are to translate the relationship of leadership to the RCDF then we might say that the failure is on the part of our leaders themselves. For instance, they are the ones who supported the idea to increase the RCDF on a level playing field regardless of the population of that particular constituency. Is it fair to have the same amount of RCDF for a constituency with a small population and a big population? The answer would be logically no. It doesn’t need rocket scientist to figure this out. But why insist on having the same allocation for the 50 constituencies as the case we have today? Well ansa lo olgeta boss ia na. They are the legislators and they are the only ones who can change it. But what happen to the motion tabled by the MP for Temotu Nende to regulate the use of RCDF by the MPs? Is it now in practice when the Taiwan only releases RCDF to MPs that submit receipts of how the funds have been expended? Maybe someone with the knowledge on this area can enlighten us in this blog. However, I am just interested to know, how many of the receipts submitted for retirement by the MPs for the next payment by Taiwan is ‘genuine’? And now with less than a year to go, the rush will be on for ‘quick’ retirement so the next payment. Ba luk osem straight ia.
To conclude, well it’s a challenging task for us. I have discussed the issue of leadership, the problems and the challenges to leadership. I have also discussed the issue of RCDF and raise some important questions to ponder further on. However, one thing for sure is that it not a new fund and the idea is good except the way in which it has been misused form its intended purpose has been a long overdue problem and the discretionary powers that MPs have over RCDF. Lastly, it is obvious that there is a link between leadership and the RCDF. What can we do about this problem? We always refer to the famous words from John Fitzgerald Kennedy (the 35th President of the United States of America), in his inauguration speech to the American people saying; ‘ask not what your country can do for you [but] ask what you can do for your country’ (http://www.famousquotes.me.uk/speeches/John_F_Kennedy/5.htm). Taking that line of speech and reflect upon on it, what does that mean for us? Umi practicem too? Or we are just impersonating JFK to tell others to follow that line of speech and umi do duim in practice and by example? I guess that is biggest obstacle facing us.

Mi stop lo here fastaem and ufala moa, what do others think?

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