Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


John Roughan: The Honeymoon Is Over!

The Honeymoon is over!

By John Roughan

(Honiara) 8 February 2004: The Solomon Islands/RAMSI honeymoon is definitely over! It's great that the mutual cooperation, sincere fondness and true thankfulness lasted more than 6 months but the honeymoon period is definitely over. Islanders are forever grateful that RAMSI collected the guns (almost 4,000 of them), helped jail the murderous warlords and chased our youthful Rambos off Honiara's streets back to their villages. Yet, all this is history. Today's life and tomorrow's uncertainties loom large and difficult for most.

Poverty levels haven't changed much and if truth be known, have dropped even further from already low levels. People's pockets remain empty with little hope that at any time soon they will gain much. Not that poverty reduction and job creation were in RAMSI's job description but for people who don't have much and live on less, there was a fond hope that the basic life of before would not only return but be better as well.

SIDT's second survey (only partially completed)--six months after the landing of the military in July last year--is turning up a different understanding from the first survey taken three weeks before the first troops landed. Then, in July 2003, people across the nation gave RAMSI a 94% acceptance rate. In this second survey, however, the acceptance rate has dropped significantly as would be expected. People, villagers as well as town folk, have had a first hand experience of the 'invading' military. They have experienced both the good as well as the bad.

One area of concern is that, in spite of the spectacular gun-collection success, people's daily lives haven't come back to what was expected. Daily living, making a few bucks, paying school fees and enjoying a bit of the Better Life hasn't returned. Over the past five years of Social Unrest many had convinced themselves that when guns no longer dominated, the militants were locked up and the killings ceased, then life would surely flow back to what it was back in 1997, the Solomon's last peaceful year. But not so!

People's basic lack of power comes flooding back into their lives, daily. Of course people know that the life they enjoyed before 1998 would take time to flow back but for most, 6 months, IS a long time. Low paid workers--public servants, Patrick workers in the RAMSI camps, teachers, etc.--hear of millions of dollars coming from EU, Australia, NZ, Japan, etc. to pay for everything but their attempts to keep a family feed, clothed and schooled. It's not hard for them to think that everyone else in the country is considered first but not that of the poor.

Public servants seek a tiny wage increase . . . 2.5% addition in their pay packet. RAMSI's reaction is to immediately wheel out the 'big guns'--diplomatic pressure, political leaning on union leadership and threats to review the nation's aid package. Patrick, the Australian service provider for the military camps out at Henderson airfield which made a $800 million dollar profit last year, is even more harsh. RAMSI's camp cooks, cleaners and general clean up people, mostly women, are curtly informed that their take home pay will be slashed from $70 a day to $32. No dialogue, no discussion, no comprise . . . just a 'take it or leave it' attitude. The miserable little amounts of money earned by these workers before, now disappears. Is that money returned to the Australian tax payer or does it flow into the already well stocked bottom line of Patrick? One would like to know!

RAMSI camps' cooks, cleaners, clean up people, etc. desperately need the work. It would be a brave women indeed who could screw up enough courage to complain to the boss that this drastic cut in their wage is unfair. How would they complain when at least 200 other women and men wait outside the camp doors to jump at the chance of getting work? Know well, however, that other RAMSI camps workers are saddened and disheartened by the way they have been treated.

There is a list of other concerns--RAMSI personnel public decorum, the gap between those who seem to have everything and the bulk of people struggling to make ends meet, etc. RAMSI and Solomon Islanders have to face these issues in the next six months to insure that what started out so well grows from strength to strength. RAMSI needs Solomon Islanders as much as the other way around. It's no one way street! The Howard Government wants to showcase the RAMSI experiment in nation building as a resounding success. Next year or so, Australia probably goes to the polls and the government would love to showcase the Solomons experiment as a feather in its cap rather than a millstone as Iraq is around George W. Bush's neck.

A successful outcome from the Solomons Experiment is fondly hoped by all but can only be accomplished through discussion, dialogue and discourse with all levels of society and not simply with those who have been the failed architects of our crippled nation. Solomon Islanders want it so! Certainly RAMSI's involvement and investment is clearly in that direction. Let's see if the next 6 months can accomplish this end.


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news