Honiara, the Country's First Classroom!
By John Roughan
Where do village people first learn to live in the modern world? Honiara! Who teaches bush people how to cross a busy, fast-moving road, drink piped water, use electricity safely, buy store goods, speak Pijin, and a bunch of other things? Most probably it is Honiara! This one city is our most important first classroom teaching our people about the modern world. Unfortunately, however, this same classroom also teaches other things that are destroying us.
Over the past 15 years Honiara has been teaching some pretty shady things. For instance, town land is scarce so city officials, for a stiff price, sell it off to those who have the money both to pay for it and the bribe. You know how it works! A wantok leans on a government official to sell him a piece of good land, e.g. near the seaside. Within a week, however, the wantok turns right around and re-sells it to foreign business interests. At a hefty profit, of course. It might be lawful but it certainly is immoral. This would hardly happen in village life but the Honiara classroom teaches it can be done and get away with it . . . most of the time.
Dubious land sales are not the only dark side of Honiara's poor teaching record. What about the special deals with 'old' vehicles, store and liquor licenses, lock-up shops, rubbish collection, road works, etc. etc. Since 1978, the Honiara City Council--it doesn't handle money well, rarely runs things correctly, is normally inept in its business dealings--has been dissolved three times. In fact, it was close to being shut down last year as well. Honiara, although the country first classroom, too often teaches the wrong lessons.
In March this year, Honiara's citizens are expected to elect a new City Council. What a great chance to check if Solomon Islanders really agree with the lessons RAMSI has been trying to teach these past few months. Our national elections--probably in February 2006--are too far away to usefully check how well we have been learning the bitter lessons on corruption, theft, intimidation, etc. The type of person we elect in the up-coming Honiara elections would be a good sign of how well we have learnt from our painful Social Unrest years.
Already some of the old city council members are actively lining up to try their hand at being elected once again. These very same losers--couldn't run a canteen successfully--, plan to direct Honiara's millions. These men in past years destroyed the town for their own fat, deep greedy pockets. They want us to vote them in again to have a second and even a third try at destroying the town and us.
We would have to be half mad to do this to ourselves again! But mark my words, some Honiara people refuse to see past their noses. They think that by voting in a crook, looser or conman--but he's a wantok--they help themselves, their children and the family. In truth, they actively destroy themselves, hurt their family and make it doubly hard for the rest of society to take them seriously.
If we vote those same people back into power once again, then the painful period of 1998-2003 will be repeated once again in the not too distant future. Forget about the 2006 national elections, the time to act is now, this year!
RAMSI's intervention has meant very little to us if we once again elect in another set of losers. By their fruits you shall know them! We will have not learnt any lesson on how close we were as a nation in bringing the whole people down on their knees. African nations in the last ten years were given a similar chance as we have been given in 2003. Not all learnt their lessons and normal life has once again passed them by.
Honiara's next elections results send an unmistaken message to Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Island states that we are indeed on the road to recovery. That we have learnt our painful lessons well and will not allow the crooks, thieves, con-artists and losers back into power. The Honiara classroom needs to re-open its doors to teach the lessons of life and forget the lessons of death.