We've seen the enemy and they is US!
By John Roughan
The above quote comes from a comic strip character "Pogo" when he worried out loud about the weakening environment of his swamp-home near the Mississippi River bayous. But he found out it was the very ones living in the bayous who were destroying them. This same quote says much to us today in the Solomons.
Harold Keke, for all intents and purposes, is history. Yes, he and his henchmen will stand trial and their evil deeds will be documented and a just judgment will be passed. His reign of terror on Guadalcanal's Weather Coast, thank God, has come to an end. Our national problem, however, is only a little bit closer to solution. Keke is not and has never been the problem. We are the problem . . . all of us.
Our collective hats are off to the Aussies for their tremendous job of collecting more than 2,000 guns in a little over three weeks. We couldn't have done it without their help. Thanks really! But the guns are not the problem and have never been the problem. It is we--the way we look at the world, how we think it works and use the gun to enforce that vision--who have been and continue to be the major problem.
Corrupt politicians, thieves in high places and fraudsters at all levels of society are currently running for cover. And best they do! Because, once the justice system kicks in and begins to work once again against the land stealers, bogus compensation claimants, gun intimidators and fraudulent conmen they will be looking at the inside of a Rove cell. But, in a real sense, they too are not the problem.
All these crooks, thieves and conmen took advantage of an easy situation they found themselves in. Our problem goes much deeper and is more profound than any military intervention, court system or new legislation can cure. We have to get a handle on how we look at the world, how it really works and what that means for a NEW Solomon Islands.
One of the first things we have to accept is that we, ourselves, alone, destroyed our beloved country. We weren't invaded by some hostile neighbor, nor suffer a natural disaster nor did a terrible disease carry away thousands of our people. No, greed, hatred of our own people and inept leadership were fundamental to how we drove the nation to its early grave.
Some like to blame those awful colonialists. In 1978 when they departed our shores and asked us to run our own affairs, these foreigners left us with a functioning public service, $24 million golden handshake and a peaceful, basically intact nation not wracked by social unrest, ethnic tension nor with grave war wounds to heal. Our first eight years, in fact, weren't that bad at all. We had no massive debt hanging over our heads and our currency was equal to that of the United States. Yes, the nation was progressing slowly, two steps forward and one step back. However, schools did work (not enough of them, of course), too few clinics but they were reaching out to the villager, jobs, few in number, were growing but most importantly, we enjoyed basic peace and order. No mean achievement!
But national rot set in about 1987 when the great forest rape began. Hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of round tree logs were sent overseas at a fraction of their real wealth. Leaders, local and national, reaped great benefit from peoples timber wealth through shady deals. Our recent Social Unrest period--1998-2003--really began during the 1987-1997 decade when it was thought that free money and easy wealth could be had without much work. It was then that the Solomons officially became the Land of the Short Cut!
The short cut way of life quickly grew into big and bigger short cuts. Wontok business became the favorite tool to secure questionable land deals, jump the queue for overseas training, make dubious compensation claims, pocket duty payments, under the table money schemes, etc. Poor folk saw their political masters growing rich without much work and they themselves fell victim to easy money schemes, e.g. Family Charity Fund. If cabinet members actually believed in RANK--a fugitive Bouganvillean promising BILLIONS of dollars--what hope did the little guy have?
Solomon's leaders and followers need a healthy sense of history to understand where our true future lies. We have tried the short cut but it only worked for the few at the expense of the many. Soon after many convinced themselves that the gun brings quick prosperity if not for the nation at least for themselves. In fact, the gun brought the exact opposite . . . suffering, misery and death. Both ways have proved to be disasters of the first order. Are we big enough to publicly accept that the last 15 years we ourselves have destroyed out beloved country? That's the first and most critical step. Without it, however, no other progress is possible!