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John Roughan: Great Expectations? No, Miracles!

Great Expectations? No, Miracles!


By John Roughan In The Solomon Islands
24 August 2003

Three great historical events changed forever the history of Solomon Islands. In the first days of Bell's killing in East Malaita in 1927, it did not seem at the time much of an historical event. But the murder of District Officer Bell by Kwaio warriors ushered in profound changes to Solomons history . . . these remote islands were put on notice: they would no longer be viewed as distant, far away and unimportant. The outside world, and they reminded us quickly enough, sent in its warships to bombard coastal villages with little connection to the Bell killing.

Of course the second biggest historical event, again a military intervention, was the 6-month battle for Guadalcanal waged by Japanese and American military in 1942-1943. Once again Solomons life was turned upside down. Strangers from afar would hence forth dictate/control/direct what kind of life would root in Solomon Islands.

The third great event should have occurred in 1978 at our independence birth. At long last islanders thought the future Solomons was completely in their hands--they themselves were to be the masters of their lives, not outsiders. But it didn't happen that way. In fact, rather than directing the Solomons people to the better life for all, only the select few, the political elite, dominated the scene and they set about destroying our beloved country.

In fact, what should have been the third most important historical event--7 July 1978--became in hindsight but a political date without much positive meaning for the backbone of the Solomons, the villager. Another event, however, the third, and once again a military intervention, happened last month. Without doubt it too will have far reaching and profound effect on any future of these Happy Isles.

Contrary to the first two important historical events, the latest intervention won considerable backing from island people before the first soldier ever set foot on our shores. The following table clearly shows the overwhelming support for the intervention at different levels of society: rural, town, men, women, young people. Almost 94% of more than 2,000 people contacted gave this the latest intervention a strong thumbs-up signal.

Intervention Force Response Table

1-23 July 2003 Survey

A Little Bit Good
Very Good
Good
Poor
Totals

Provinces 757
389
88
17
1251 (61%)

Honiara 660
123
24
-
807 (39%)

Totals 1417
512
112
17
2058

%
68.8%
24.9%
5%
1%

(Source: SIDT 2003)

These high numbers are impressive. No doubt, when SIDT conducts a further survey in early 2004 (six months after the first one) there will be a weakening of this high level of support. If numbers come down only slightly, say 5 or 6%, then that would be normal, almost routine. However, if the approval rate decreases by 15% or more, then RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) has a worrying trend on its hands.

One obvious reason for people's steep decline in support for the intervention would be their unmet expectations, one could say their need for a miracle. Yes, the guns are no longer part of Solomons reality. And for this blessing people across the land are indeed thankful and grateful. But the guns have never been the disease. The ones who held on to them and willingly used them up to the very last moment, hoping against hope, that they wouldn't have to give them up, these individuals and groups are the disease.

Those who have destroyed this country for their own deep greedy pockets must be now seen to be properly taken care of. Yes, it's early days yet! Every thing can not be done at once. But sure and decisive action against those who have steered the country so disastrously must be seen to be done and quickly so. RAMSI's first month's work has been an unqualified success--Harold Keke and his killers behind bars, 3,000+ guns collected and destroyed, and most importantly, local Rambos are on the run. However, people's appetite for greater things has been strengthened by this initial success.

Solomon Islanders do not have high expectations of RAMSI. No, it's a miracle--peace, tranquility, order and a fruitful future for themselves and their children--that they look for.

ENDS

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