Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prime Minister Philip on Political Appointees

The Prime Minister Hon. Danny Philip revealed on the floor of Parliament that he had appointed 13 new Political Appointees. The PM revealed this when he was asked by the Member of Parliament for East Choiseul, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare during questions and answers session. The PM informed the House that the Public Service Commission had approved their appointments.

According to the PM these Political Appointees are identified and selected by a Political Appointee Working Committee. All will be posted to the Political Unit and Policy Unit under the Prime Ministers Office.

In terms of the terms of reference and conditions the Prime Minister stated that there has been a drastic reduction in the salary of Political Appointees. He mentioned that their salary levels “were now pegged at appropriate Public Service structures and with a 30% to 40% reduction.”

The 13 Political Appointees will cost tax payers $2million dollars per annum. The list of Political Appointees is as follows:

1. Special Secretary to Prime Minister

2. Private Secretary to Prime Minister

3. Press Secretary to Prime Minister

4. Secretary to Caucus

5. Deputy Secretary to Caucus

6. Chief Political Analyst Government Caucus Office

7. Political Analyst – Caucus Office

8. Director Policy Interpretation and Evaluation

9. Deputy Director Policy Interpretation and Evaluation

10. Director Government Communication Unit

11. Chief Admin Officer political

12. Logistics Political

13. Driver Political

The previous CNURA government had 18 Political Appointees and cost $4.4 million of tax payers money per annum.

When asked if he will stop at that number the Prime Minister stated, “I would love to appoint more; therefore should I see it necessary I will have to see to it.”

By Enem

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gov’t proposes multi-sectoral reforms

Below is a news article from Solomon Star online news. As you can see, the news article holds very interesting reading as it summarises the current government's policy outlook for their tenure in Office.

The Prime Minister's promise of cross-sectoral reforms is encouraging. I assume this also include reforms within the education Sector, which is good.

However, as far as I am concerned, until these promises are put into fruition and are transformed into tangible outputs, anything that is being said will only be regarded as 'political thrash talk'. Because this is not the first time for any new government to make any promises. We have witnessed this practice all too often that it now becomes more or less meaningless and insignificant to the actuality of governance in our polity. . In the case of Solomon Islands to say one thing in the public arena in order to gain public credibility and support is one thing, but to actually deliver on these promises is yet another thing. It is the latter that has always fall short of being fulfilled.

Even if reforms are trully introduced, the next big and difficult question to ponder on is "how sustainable will such reforms be?" This is because the question of sustainability cannot only be fully answered or addressed by the government but also by the people. And in the case like ours where there is disjoint and disconnectedness in the government service delivery mechanisms, sustainability remains the biggest issue.

Thus, legislative reforms and government structural reforms alone cannot be the answer. The solution is deeply enthrenced within the dynamics of our society which must also be addressed simultaneously with any bureaucratic reform exercise.

One of these factors is our high level of illiteracy, which as far as I am concerned is currently being sidelined by the current reform agendas.

I believe that unless this issue is addressed so that people's world view is altered to suit the challenges of the modern world and our system of governance, the issue of sustainability will remain a major problem for our nations development and progress. As we all know, there are no quick fixes.

[Solomon Star News, Friday, 24 September 2010 13:05]  

Prime Minister Danny Philip.[Photo: Solomon Star News]

THE Government is looking at carrying out a number of reforms in the different sectors in the country starting this year.

This is part of sectoral reforms the Government proposes to undertake during its tenure.
The other main reform is on Constitution to give back resources to landowners.
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by Solomon Islands Chambers of Commerce and Industry at Jina's Restaurant Wednesday, Prime Minister Danny Philip said: "As many of you know, many of our sectors remain untapped.

“Take tourism, for example. This is a billion dollar international industry which has the potential to contribute significantly to our national economy.

"And yet over the last three decades, the industry has received nothing more than lip service. We can do better," he said.

The reform will also covers marine.

"Being a maritime nation that we are, marine infrastructure is an important policy consideration. We believe it is an industry that requires investment.

"My government believes that once the mechanics of the fundamental and sectoral reforms are in place, the rest will simply blend in," he said.

Mr Philip added:"You will agree with me that infrastructure constraint limit private sector development. Whether it's road, water supply, fuel depot, hydro scheme, they all come back to the issue of land. This is why the issue of customary land reform is so critical."

He said one of the things embraced in the comprehensive reform package is the employment and work place reform.

"It is pleasing to note that the Chamber of Commerce has been proactive in this area by proposing a tripartite approach involving the Government, Employers and workers union to deal with this important area.

"The cost of doing business in Solomon Islands has been a constant source of complaints for may well meaning investors. I can assure you that this will be dealt with in the Sector reform," he said.

PM Philip said all attempts would be made to ensure labour intensive infrastructure projects are brought forward to cushion the effects of the decline in export receipts.

"I am pleased to announce that a Major Projects Unit would be established within the Office of the Prime Minister to advance project funding, coordinating, implementing and evaluating.

"Reforms in other areas such the Government machinery and the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) will continue," he said.

Mr Philip said: "The objective is to improve service delivery to our people. The notion that Government should seek to divest itself of commercial activities as far as is practicable is a good one and merits investigation.

"Let me quickly turn to other areas. The Government is aware of the need for restraint on recurrent spending. It will do all in its power to ensure that fiscal measures taken are not done at the expense of maintaining the current level of service to our people.

"That is not to say unproductive expenditure should be allowed to continue," he said.

"In trade and investment, an attractive regime would be introduced to ensure maximum return on public investment in this area. This is an extremely important area that my government will prioritise.

"My Government recognises the importance of the need for dynamic exchange with the private sector, a sector often referred to as the engine for economic growth."


Thursday, September 23, 2010


With a government now in power in Solomon Islands, there have been in the past weeks many reports by the local media of the government’s intention to engage in policy reforms.

I have been following these reports very closely and have been quite disappointed to note that nothing much has been said about educational policy reforms. I am disappointed because I am of the belief that in Solomon Islands, before anything else, education should be one of the major priorities of any government.

Policy goals, objectives and intentions can only be fully realised if people are educated enough to appreciate them and are themselves capable of participating fully towards their successful implementation and attainment.

We may talk about structural and systems reform, land and natural resource reforms but the bottom line is that with a subsistent, socially diverse and highly illiterate society like ours the achievement of any sustainable outcomes driven by structural or systems reforms is always doubtful. How can you possibly expect people to deliver if they are not intellectually capable to do so? We may boast the whole time about the outputs of policy reforms which are often visible and tangible. But the real returns to the economy and the people are policy outcomes, which are often normative and aspirational. Unless people are capable of fully engaging and participating in empowering and furthering the role of government, the four year cycle of achieving short-term and often disconnected results through government policy reform will prevail.

Off course education reform is a very broad rhetoric and any one government of the day may not be fully capacitated to make adequate reforms at one time. But at least a start must be made at some point so that the path is properly mapped for the future.

Already the government has enforced the Fee Free Education Policy, itself a policy that was mostly driven by our international commitments as Members of the United Nations Organisation. Despite the fact that is have only been implemented for a short while, its results have been mixed.

The Ministry of Education has attributed increased school enrolments in most urban-based schools to the policy. However, while many schools have participated in the policy, some private schools are still reluctant to do so. And even in some schools that have participated, other ‘fees’ have been introduced as general costs to student’s education.

The policy was introduced to address the high rate of illiteracy in the country and the abolition of school fees was aimed at easing the financial pressure of sending students to schools, a reason which has been closely linked to low school enrolment and the deprivation of the right of children to have basic education. But with the experience in some schools of the introduction of other ‘fees’, I am beginning to question whether the policy is really achieving its intended goals or it is just another policy hoax?

The main weakness of the much publicised ‘fee free education policy’ in my opinion was the fact that is was impliemented without legislative backing. Therefore each praticipant was free to make their own interpretation and contextual application of the policy. At the end of the day, coupled with inadequate monitoring systems, I am very doubtful of whether the policy will be of any success at all in the long term without legislative support.

Another policy which I think requires revising or most preferrably abolishing is the long outdated two years requirement to work for the government before a person who has completed his or her undergraduate can go for futher postgraduate studies. This particular policy is outdated and ridiculous. While I am not certain why such a policy was put in place at the first place, I suspect the one fo the reasons is that to encourage Solomon Islanders who have graduated with their first degree to go back to the country and work to gain experience before going for further studies. Otherwise it may have been a cost control measure to ensure.

However, I think it is imminent that the policy is abolished because in my opinion the policy has been an obstacle to human resource development in Solomon Islands. I am personally aware of many cases when this particular policy has been used and abused to accomplish personal favours or to further wantokism and nepotism within the public service over the years.

A major personal concern is that the policy has been applied inconsistently within the government sector thus undermining any purpose, if there is any, of its continuous existence and exercise.

In addition, the policy has also served as an obstacle to future learning as when a person is fresh from University with his or her first degree and is eligible by merit to go further the system should not be the determining factor for whether or not he or she should continue. Many times abled and bright-minded Solomon Islanders graduated fresh from Universities with their degrees and were looking forward for further learning only to be prevented from doing so by this policy. And by the time they have served their two years as required under this policy they are faced with other financial and social committments that would no longer enable them to go further. Thus, their interests to go for further studies subsides to the point that it dies away for good.
As we all know, most if not all scholarships do not support dependencies. Until this year 2010, only NZAID Scholarships do cover for the cost of dependencies. However, with the recent review of NZAID resulting in the slicing of is overall funding this benefit will no longer continue. Thus, thist gives me the impression that the situation now is only favourable to single people to go for further studies, unless married people are willing to bear the sacrifice of living their families behind or have the financial will to support their families while overseas. My point however is that given the limited scholarship coverage, if the government does not review or abolish this ridiculous ‘two year work’ policy requirement there will be a decrease in the number of postgraduates in the next few years – unless of course if their is pravalent nepotism and inconsistency in the application of the policy.

Other countries, like Vanuatu, who have similar policies have already abolished theirs, mainly due to the realisation that it has been a harm to their society in terms of further education, and also to be inline with the changes that are currently being done to theterms and conditions of development scholarships, such as New Zealand Aid Scholarships.

Having said all that, I have discussed only two components of Solomon Islands education policy. Obviously there are other areas which need to be looked at by the government, instead of trying to introduce legislation such as the reported ‘Forgiveness Bill’ or other bills and legislation that would only serve political interests.

For Solomon Islands indeed ‘Education is the Key’! Without education we will never move forward, regardless of how many times we may want to change the system or engage in structural reforms and so forth. Our main and most important resources are our human resources and without adequate capability, ability and capacity to proactively participate in economic development we still be revolving in the vicious cycle “one step forward, two steps back”.

“The cart will always be put before the horse”.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Election petitions lodged to be 'tested' by the courts.

The local media in Solomon Islands has reported a record number of election petitions lodged before the High Court.

SIBC and Solomon Star have reported that by the deadline of 3:30pm of the 16th September (Thursday) a total of 18 petitions were lodged. In the history of Solomon Islands this has been the highest number of petitions lodged so far at one time. These petitions were submitted mainly by losing candidates of the recent elections.

Interestingly, according to SIBC reports, the number of election petitions have been shared equally between the government and the opposition, with nine petitions going against each side respectively.

The MPs whose wins have been challenged include MP for Maringe/Kokota, Varian Longamei; Central Kwara'ae's Jackson Fiulaua, West Honiara, Namson Tran; South Vella La Vella's Lionel Alex, North Guadalcanal's Martin Soaghe, Temotu/Pele's Martin Maga, East Honiara's Douglas Ete, Ranogga/Simbo - Charles Sigoto, and Central Honiara, John Moffat Fugui, MP for Lau Baelelea, Walter Folotalu; West New Georgia, Vona Vona's Silas Tausinga; Fataleka's Steve Abana, East Are'are's Andrew Hanaria, West Are'are's John Maneiaru, North East Guadalcanal's Derek Sikua , Malaita Outer Islands' Martin Kealoe, Small Malaita's Rick Hou, and West Kwara'ae's Samuel Iduri.

In the short history of Solomon Islands politics, the record of successful election petitions is very low. I therefore could not help but ponder on the thought that if there is indeed corruption during elections by candidates, then why is it that a majority of petition cases have not been successful in the courts? Thinking through this situation even makes me to become quite sceptical of the justice system we have, especially in relation to election petitions, or even in relation to Members of Parliament in general.  

Part of me however, reminded myself that may be the low success rate of elections petitions is partly due to the fact that it is often very difficult to substantiate 'proof' and 'evidence' against winning candidates, especially given the dire socio-economic situation our country is currently experiencing. Ordinary people who may have benefitted from corrupt election  practices, contrary to section 66 (2) of the Electoral Provisions Act, would be very reluctant to testify against winning candidates, knowing very well that making such a move involve incalculable risks. Social and economic insecurity therefore plays a very big role in people's reluctance to provide significant 'evidence'.

Indeed the courts value first hand witness acounts as vital. However in many occassions people who are directly involved in such actions are supporters of winning candidates who are alleged to have committed these acts. So they would not be willing to testify against a person they support, who in most cases would be their relative. Hence, unless they are offered 'greener pasture' by petitioners - an act which in itself is, to a certain extent, also corrupt - the nature of substantial evidence, as viewed by the courts would always be doubtful.

The absence of proper systematic recording systems also play a very big role in the lack of 'evidence' supporting election petitions. In many cases, acts of corruption,  misconduct and misdemeanour during elections are trully committed by the respondents of election petitions. However, in the absence of proper recording systems and due to the courts insistence on 'black and white' as 'hard evidence' if substantial first-hand witness accounts are unavailable,  it is always very difficult to 'prove beyond resonable doubt' that such transactions have occurred.

The socio- political and economic dynamics of Solomon Islands society as we know are  very complex and interwined. People relate to the 'world' beyond them based on their surroundings, world view and cultural prejudice. In Solomon Islands the social, economic and political decisions people make are still very much embedded to their social environment. For instance, in relation to practices of bribery and corruption there is often difficulty in trying to divorce cultural prejudice from the social justification of dubious actions such as gift giving, which in other societies would be regarded as bribery and corruption. The treatment of 'truth' and 'evidence' by courts therefore differs greatly from what an ordinary person may percieve to be sufficiently a matter of 'evidence'. So looking at the whole situation from the outset, it to me indicates that there is a certain degree of 'mis-marriage' between our justice system and socio-political environment.  

The above situation is worsened by continuous government failure leading to decay of confidence in the relationship of the people with the state. When this occurs people would not regard their actions of accepting bribes and 'gifts' during elections as illegal. To them it is a means of making immidiate returns from a system that has failed them for so long. When this mentality is developed over time, it becomes a culture almost impossible to change. So even when they are aware of corruption during elections, there will be no urge from them to try and ensure justice is served accordingly.

The case of Gigini v Notere of 2002 was one of the very few election petition cases that have gone through our court system successfully, where Eric Notere was the winning candidate and respondent accused of electoral corruption and William Gigini, one of the losing candidates and petitioner. In the case the petitioner claimed that two of the supporters of the respondent were invloved in dubious activities, in the set up of a financial scheme, during the campaign period aimed at luring people to vote for the respondent (Notere) on the condition that if Notere wins their financial contributions will be repaid but will be multiplied by a hundred.

In his defence, while not denying the existence of the scheme, the respondent argued that he was not involved in the activities and that there were no existence of any reciepts to substantiate his involvement. His argument was that the activity was undertaken by his supporters, not him and that he has no prior knowledge of the scheme's existence.

In reaching its decision the court dwelled extensively on the presence of reciepts as 'substantial evidence'  providing prove to the case and how that have impacted on the outocme of the elections in Gao-Bugotu. In the end the court  found Notere guilty and the election result void and a by-election was held. The petitioner however was also unsuccessful in the by-elections that followed.

In another case, Haomae v. Bartlett of 1989, despite eyewitness accounts, the Court dismissed the peition on the grounds that the respondent  (Bartlett) gave money to a person and the money was a 'gift' given in response to a request from the reciepient. The court also acknowledged that practice of gift-giving is customary in Solomon Islands soceity.

In the judgment the presiding judge mentioned that: "In an election, any candidate will be subject to customary pressures to make gifts which he will feel he is obliged to observe. However, the giving of money is always likely to be misconstrued. In this case the sum was not large but, in the context of an old village man who had little other access to cash, its effect could be substantial. No hard and fast rule can be read into the provisions of section 70 but any candidate would be wise to try and avoid any gifts of money during an election campaign and, in all cases where the circumstances of the giving themselves do not do so, he should make it clear that the gift is made in custom and ensure it is appropriate in scale to such gifts."

It is therefore clear that in relation to election petitions the standard of proof is high and stricter as compared to other criminal or civil matters. This is could be clearly seen in Justice Muria's ruling in the case of John Maetia v. Charles Dausabea in 1993, drawing from a previous case ( Alisae v. Salaka) and cited at paclii website: "From these observations, I am of the view that the test in Alisae v Salaka is the test to be followed in Solomon Islands when allegations of corrupt practices such as bribery, treating or undue influence are raised in an election petition. That required standard of proof is stricter in that the allegations must be proved to the entire satisfaction of the court. The evidence must be clear and unequivocal in order to enable the court to be entirely satisfied that the allegation of corrupt practices are made out and not simply on the mere balance of probabilities which is a test that is appropriate to the other allegations of breaches of the election laws."

For current cases filed before the High Court, if it is for the betterment of Solomon Islands, we hope that they will pass the test of the courts.  

Friday, September 10, 2010

New A-G and SSPM for new government.

Since its coming into power the government has made several political appointments. These include the appointment of Mr. Andrew Moaki as the Special Secretary to the Prime Minister (SSPM) and Mr. Billy Titiulu as new Attorney - General.

Both men have legal backgrounds.

Mr. Moaki, who recently contested in the recent general election in Guadalcanal but was unsuccessful has been working and living in Australia for the past years.

Mr. Titiulu started private pratise in 2002. He joined the Solomon Islands Bar Association in 1993 and has since then served as a lawyer both within the private and the public sector.

Mr. Moaki replaces John Keniapisia as SSPM and Mr. Titiulu replaces Gabriel Suri.

Mr. Moaki is of Guadalcanal and Makira parentage while Mr. Titiulu is from Ulawa island in Makira Province.

PREJUDICED would like to wish Mr. Moakia and Mr. Titiulu the best in thier new appointments.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Casino Owner to Deputy Speaker of Parliament

In another somewhat unexpected twist of events in Solomon Islands politics, Namson Tran has been voted as the Deputy Speaker of National Parliament of Solomon Islands.

Namson, MP for West Honiara defeated former Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua by 26: 23 votes. This vote division reflects the current  number balance between the government and the Opposition.

Namson is a naturalised Solomon Islander of Vietnamese heritage. A private businessman, he is the owner of the first ever casino to be established in Solomon Islands, the Honiara Casino.

In the recent election Namson defeated former MP, Isaac Inoke through votes drawn from a controversial voting list, an issue which the High Court has substantiated but has fallen short of rectifying.

The media has reported that Inoke is currently undertaking proceedings to challenge the election results, petitioning Solomon Islands Electoral Commission. A court ruling in favour of Inoke will certainly have direct implications on  Namson's current status as MP as well as being the Deputy Speaker.

In receiving Mr. Namson's successful election as Deputy Speaker of Parliament, I will be frank by saying that obviously the vote was made based primarily on political grounds. No consideration have been given to the very demanding responsibilities that position of Deputy Speaker exerts.

On that basis, I will say that Namson has a very high and steep mountain to climb.

As the Deputy Speaker he is expected to preside over the proceedings of Parliament in the absence of the Speaker, as specified under section 65 of the Constitution. Thus, he is required to be well-versed with the Standing Orders of National Parliament, a document of parliamentary procedure that even many long-term MPs are still not totally familiar with.

He will be assissted in his work by the Parliamentary Secretariat. But that is only on procedural matters that require  Deputy Speaker to make a ruling, statement, announcement and so forth. In other words, the Parliamentary Secretariat can only assisst the Deputy Speaker or even the Speaker on matters that are predictable and pre-emptive. Most of the time it is his own instinct, reasoning and understanding of the Standing Orders that he has to bank on to make procedural rulings that would determine the manner in which MPs debate and behave in Parliament.

His professional demeanour as head of the House would  therefore partly determine the quality of  debate and discussion parliamentarians would have in the Chamber.

The way I see it, our parliamentarians are going one step forward and two steps back in their rational reasoning and decision making as indicated by this particular election result.

No offence, but I am saying it as I see it!


Sir Allen Kemakeza is the new Speaker to the National Parliament. He is duly elected amongst two other candidates following the last minute withdrawal of Patteson Oti this morning. Sir Allen won by a majority vote on the first ballot with 27 votes.

Sir Allen is a former Prime Minister and a long time politician. He however lost the Savo/Russell parliametary seat during the 4th August 2010 National General Elections.

On the other result, Francis Billy Hilly got 17 votes while Fred Fono 4 votes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parliament meets tomorrow - first on business election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker

Finally, Parliament will now meet tomorrow, minus a motion of no confidence and any major dramas.

As usual in any vice regal opening of Parliament, the first  business will be the election of a Speaker of Parliament and a Deputy Speaker.

Tomorrow's election of Speaker will mark the end of Sir Peter Kenilorea's active participation in the politics of Solomon Islands. He will now retire from public life as of tomorrow, 8th September 2010.

The election of the Speakers will be followed by a 'Speech from the Throne" a convention provided to give an opportunity for the government spell out its future plan and policy framework.

The next big government business after all these formalitites is off course the Appropriation Bill which is the government's budget for the next 12 months.

We are all looking forward to how this new government will fare.

Candidate for Parliamentary Speaker endorsed by both sides of the House

More often than not, the battle between the Government side and the Opposition side is played in almost all avenues of parliamentary business and proceedings. The battle extends even outside of the Chamber and into the public sphere.

However, with the current parliament, the 9th Parliament it is very encouraging to see that may be there is now some common sense developing, especially in relation to the election of a Speaker of Parliament to replace the retiring Sir Peter Kenilorea?

Last week, Solomon Star reported that the government has endorsed Patterson Oti as their candidate for the Speaker of Parliament. In a rather unusual move the Opposition group has announced that they have also endorsed the same person to be National Parliament Speaker.

PREJUDICED understands that Sir Peter Kenilorea once stood unopposed as the Speaker of Parliament with the support of both sides of the House. But his was at that time the serving Speaker of the House, hence having no political allegiance prior to assuming the position.

Mr. Oti is one of the founding members of OUR Party, a group whose leader  has recently moved to join the Opposition faction. Its members however are divided among the government and the Opposition groups.

The Opposition however has endorsed former Prime Minister, Hon. Derek Sikua as their candidate for Deputy Speaker.

The government has not yet made any announcements in respect of who their candidate will be for Deputy Speaker. However, given the Opposition's endorsement for thier candidate for Speaker, it would be very interesting to see how the government receives the Opposition's nomination of Dr. Sikua's for Deputy Speaker position.

As far as Mr. Oti's nomination is concern, it is clear that all current 49 Members of Parliament are confident that he is the right person for the job, and rightfully so! Mr. Oti is has been a long serving MP and of all the MPs of the last House, he is one that has shown maturity and prfound understanding of the Parliamentary Standing Orders. Given the overwhelming support already shown by Parliament it may well be that he will be unopposed for the position of Speaker.

Prejudiced would like to wish Mr. Oti and Dr. Derek Sikua the best of luck in tomorrow's election.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Congratulations bemobile? But it is just a small slice of the cake!

The following is a letter by one Pedical Togamae of Gurena Village in Isabel Province, to the Solomon Star's Letters to the Editor, congratulating bemobile and challenging bemobile's critics:

Thursday, 02 September 2010 13:10

Hundreds of bemobile getting their new bemobile handsets.[Source: Solomon Star]

Dear Editor – Give Solomon Islands the best offer you have, and the best will come to you!

Congratulations Bemobile!

Your launching is welcoming and we hope our problems that we used to have with Our Telekom will be solved.

Folks, bemobile have done it. Digicel fans, what's your opinion on this?

Love to hear something from critics likes David Kakai who loves to criticise so much just like an empty drum on bemobile's capability.

Thank you bemobile and good luck!

Pedical Togamae

Gurena Village

Isabel Province

As could be seen above, in the letter Mr. Togamae has challenged those who have expressed their dissatisfaction over the Telecommunication Committee’s decision to allow bemobile to enter and compete with Our Telekom in the mobile telecommunication sector, instead of Digicel. As a person who had also voiced discontent over that decision, I hereby wish to share my humble opinion on the issue. When the Telecommunication Committee awarded bemobile the permit to enter telecommunication market early this year I was one of the people who have raised concern on the award of the contract by writing  a letter to Solomon Star.

But I must clarify before going further that I do not regard myself a ‘fan’ of Digicel at all, rather a person that is keen to see that there is reliability, efficiency and equitable distribution of mobile services throughout Solomon Islands.

First of all, I would like also to join all those who are smiling right now, with brand new bemobile handsets, sim cards and other free supplementary gifts, by congratulating bemobile for the fulfillment of a part of their contract with the SI Telecommunications Committee (SIG), thus avoiding the give-away of another two million US dollars should the launch had not been undertaken. It is indeed a very good start.

However, I believe that despite bemobile’s startling grand launching, the question regarding its capability is still very much a matter of doubt, especially if history is something to go by. So let us not get too carried away with a single launch, for it is just the beginning.

I do understand that in PNG when bemobile started its operations, their launch was also very colourful and was almost convincing. There was therefore strong sense of hope amongst the people. Even the then Minister of State, Hon. Somare, son of Grand Chief Michael Somare described the event as “a milestone in PNG’s telecommunication history”. But not long afterwards people’s hopes had turned to despair, frustration and dissatisfaction. For many of the remote regions, it was Digicel’s entry into the market that became their savior. Today Digicel remains the biggest and the most efficient mobile service provider in Papua New Guinea.

So we should think twice before perceiving the recent launch as totally indicative of bemobile’s capability.

The event was held in Honiara, where only less than 10 percent of Solomon Islanders dwell. Thus, bemobile’s capability is still very much untested. To me, bemobile is still having a some-what ‘free ride’ of what was already there before it was allowed to enter the market, except for minimal additional facilities to kick-start its own network.

Off course there will be marginal increase in the number of mobile users especially as prices are lowered, now that there is some form of competition in place or due to some people having multiple sim cards.

But be reminded that price reduction is a common market – entry strategy that many new entrant firms in an industry can employ to attract customers and acquire a certain portion of the market. Once they have secured their niche and had gained customer loyalty, price increases can then be either directly or indirectly imposed gradually.

So generally, at the moment both Our Telekom and bemobile are competing for the same portion of a potentially bigger but under serviced market. That is, at the moment they are providing mobile services to more or less the same people and regions that have been accessible to mobile services even before bemobile’s entry into the market.

Thus, I think it is still too early to jump around and ‘celebrate’, as what we have witnessed was just a small and first step forward in a very long and difficult journey for bemobile and even Our Telekom.

The actual capability of bemobile would only be certainly put to test when the current market has been expanded and therefore extended further into areas and regions that are not currently within mobile service coverage. And for me, it is only when the service is made accessible to most if not all of our rural dwellers – that is when I can have access to mobile services from the remote dwellings of Arosi in Makira – that I can join everybody else to celebrate.

Like all other means of service delivery- including that from the government, for the moment the mobile network service is still very much centralized in urban centers or within the fringes of urban areas. And these are the very same areas that have been enjoying comparably better standards of service, even from the government, for many years since our nation’s independence.

So to me the situation only re- emphasizes the ‘norm’ of centralization, a trend that has been a major cause factor to other social issues that our country is currently faced with, such as the rural – urban migration dilemma. The rural areas are being continuously marginalized and deprived of essential services.

Having said that, I do acknowledge that bemobile still has a contract to fulfill within a given time-frame, and the task ahead is certainly not easy. Therefore I do hope that it won’t be too long before mobile services are made accessible throughout the rest of Solomon Islands, or at least to 95 percent of the country. Till then, I will reserve my energy from ‘celebrating’.

As for now I will give bemobile the benefit of doubt! Good luck to you and all the best!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The 9th Parliament will probably have its first meeting as early as next week. Sources close to the Prime Ministers Office revealed to PREJUDICE that Prime Minister Danny Philip is looking at the 8th of September 2010 as the likely date to hold Parliament first meeting.

PREJUDICE understands that the Prime Minister after appointing his Cabinet Ministers will be calling for a meeting soon. Now that all 23 Ministerial portfolios has been filled a meeting is anticipated soon.

Parliament needs to meet so that duly elected Members of Parliament took their oath. PREJUDICE understands that no Member of Parliament is permitted to take part in any Parliamentary proceedings until he/she made the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

It is understood that in accordance with section 72 of the constitution, the Governor General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister may appoint on proclamation published in the gazette a date for parliament to commence its first session.

Parliamentary Opposition Group Choose Leader

Hon. Steve Abana, Member of Parliament for Fataleka became the new Parliamentary wing Leader of the Official Opposition. He is duly elected in a meeting held at the Opposition Office yesterday by Members forming the Opposition group.

Hon. Mathew Wale is chosen as the new Deputy Opposition Leader.

The Solomon Star newspaper in their paper today reported that the Opposition group also use the time to identify respective spokespersons and fill the responsibility as shadow Ministers for each Ministry. However, Solomon Islands is yet to have a proper legislation to provide for the office of Shadow Minister within the Opposition Party.

Interestingly the former Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for North East Guadalcanal Dr. Derek Sikua is not on the list.

The indentified spokespersons and their shadow Ministries include:

Hon. Steve Abana (Opposition Leader) - Public Service
Hon. Mathew Wale (D/Opposition Leader) - Education; Environment
Hon. Mannaseh Sogavare - National Planning, Aid Coordination; Land, Housing & Survey
Hon. Rick Hou - Finance & Treasury
Hon. Milner Tozaka - Foreign Affairs; Justice & Legal Affairs
Hon. Peter Tom - Home Affairs
Hon. Connolly Sandagapatu - Agriculture and Livestock
Hon. John Maneniaru - Commerce, Industry, Labour & Immigration
Hon. Walter Folotalu - Communication & Aviation; Police & National Security
Hon. Seth Gukuna - Culture & Tourism
Hon. Job Duddley Tausinga - Forests
Hon. Andrew Hanaria - Fisheries & Marine Resources
Hon. Stanley Festus Sofu - Infrastructure Development
Hon. David Day Pacha - Mines, Energy & Electrification
Hon. Sam Iduri - National Unity, Reconciliation & Peace
Hon. Moses Garu - Rural Development & Indigenous Affairs
Hon. Dickson Mua - Health & Medical Services
Hon. Silas Tausinga - Women, Youth & Children Affairs
Hon. Alfred Ghiro - Provincial Government

Opposition numbers less by one - TORA is on the move

Hon. James Tora (photo: parliament website)

In another some-what expected twist in Solomon Islands politics, Hon. James Tora, MP for Ulawa-Ugi has joined the government. 

He was sworn-in yesterday 31st August as the new Minister for Police and National Security.

This has occurred despite Opposition's earlier statement in Solomon Star that they are sticking together.

Hon James Tora is a Member of Solomon Islands Democratic Party and is serving his third term in Parliament. He first entered Parliament in December 2004 in a bye-election.

As a Member of Parliament James Tora's switch is not a surprise as this is not the first time for him to 'cross the floor'. After the April 5th elections in 2006, James Tora was also at the centre of political tug-of-war between the two opposing camps.

At that time he was with the Snyder/ Kemakeza-led camp and because of the fear then that he was going to be easily lured to the other camp he had to be swiftly taken by outboard motor powered engine to Sir Allan's lodge in Savo to be physically away from the then intense 'horse-trading'.  

He therefore was part of the group that voted Snyder Rini as PM on 18th April 2006. He however later switched sides to join Sogavare and helped voted him to become the Prime Minister for the GCCG. He later deserted GCCG in a mass ministerial resignation and  helped Dr. Sikua to form the CNURA.

For now we wish Hon. James Tora all the best of luck and hope that his tenure with the current Philip-led government will last for some time.

Tora's switch now leaves the Opposition with 23 members and the government with 25. All the 23 ministerial portfolios are now being filled and including the Prime Minister this brings the total number of Ministers to 24, with so far only one known government backbencher. He is Namson Tran, MP for West Honiara.