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John Roughan: Will We Ever Learn?

Will We Ever Learn?
Around the World in a Minute!

By John Roughan In The Solomon Islands

Solomons' Central Bank made it clear as full daylight, RAONK (Royal Assembly of Nations and Kingdoms) is a fraud, a fake, a confidence trick. Yet, government holds on to its dream of 'free big money'. Every Solomons' bank, every single one of them, informed the nation once again that the Family Charity Fund holds no funds, no money, nothing. Still people hang on hoping that by some miracle or act of God, that big money will some how come and make them rich.

The rest of the world not only knows about these things but watches us closely ! What we do, how we handle our problems and when we do it is known across the world even before SIBC broadcasts its nightly news.

The nation now experiences a national sickness. More than 7,000 Solomon Islanders have convinced themselves that a little bit of money will magically grow into thousands of dollars quickly. The government is infected with the same virus. Somewhere, somehow, someway their desperate need for money will be answered by magic. Both groups suffer the same sickness. It is a national disease. But really this sickness has been with us for a long time. Now, however, it is out of hand and has become an epidemic.

In past years, former governments suffered the same sickness. Remember when the Minister of Finance in the late 1980s told the nation that Saudi Arabia was going to swap its oil for our trees. Few people thought anything wrong with such an idea . . . an oil-rich kingdom thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world, would ship oil to us and we in turn would swap them our trees. National leaders thought the plan normal, natural almost inevitable. In those days the global news machine wasn't that strong. Now, however, it covers the world in seconds and national actions are known and commented upon with the speed of light.

We suffered other easy money schemes over the years! One Solomons' government actually thought of bottling bush oxygen and selling it to tourists! Nothing came of it. Another easy-money plan sent police force personnel to Tulagi to search for and dig up Japanese gold hidden by them during the war. Of course over the years Ministers of the Crown regularly flew to Hong Kong to collect 'free money'. To this date, nothing!

More recently, last year in fact, Makira leaders planned to import 3 million tons of toxic waste from Taiwan, dump it on their weather coast and development would happen. Mothers, fathers and their children could die from the toxic waste but before dying they would have enough money to erect a new city, build an international airport and enjoy paved roads and highways. This nightmare, unfortunately, has not really died but has simply been put on hold for the time being.

In less than 25 years, then, Solomon Islands has gone from being a nation that had great potential with a marvellous future to the laughing stock of the world. Worldwide, information, especially bad or sad news, travels at the speed of light. What happens in the most remote part of a nation, e.g. Tikopia's recent brush with a deadly cyclone, becomes the news item for the rest of the world in an instant. Our present government's flirting with the RAONK magic money scheme is known in every nation before SIBC broadcasts its 6:00 news.

So what government does today, how the ordinary citizen conducts himself in public becomes news whether we like it or not. Our reputation, how other people see us, what they think of us is formed almost daily. Believe me our nation is not considered healthy at all. While travelling in Australia earlier this month, at the time of the supercyclone Zoe, an elderly Australian couple sitting by me on the plane were reading the Brisbane paper about the storm. They were terribly upset with the way we as a nation acted towards Tikopia.

Before Zoe hit these small islands, few Australians would have been able to find these small specs on a map. Solomon Islanders, themselves, would have had trouble finding them. But in an instant, newspapers around the world, TV stations in all corners of the globe were running stories about Tikopia and Anuta. Our nation didn't look good at all. It seemed we didn't care, couldn't be bothered about our citizens and even some Big Men tried to make money for themselves out of a people's misery.

During Solomons first few years as a nation, few knew about us. However, since the 1990s, with computers, faxes and other electronic equipment, what goes on in our country is known quickly around the world. That means potential investors and possible donors know more about us than many of our own politicians. Hence, what we do or don't do makes a difference in their attitude towards us. They are put off by a country where leaders and many people believe that money magic is the wave of the future. What we do today, comes back to us tomorrow, quickly.

J. Roughan
19 January 2003

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