John Roughan: Our Shadow Government
Our Shadow Government
By John Roughan
15 March 2004
At present, Solomon Islanders experience two different kinds of governments: RAMSI and a shadow one, our own Members of Parliament. RAMSI plans and works, their achievements fill our newspapers, feature on SIBC nightly and their exploits are on everyone's lips almost daily. Our duly elected representatives, however, are something else again. Parliament members are hardly seen, rarely heard and seemingly not present. It's as if the country had recently had a secret national election and the present Parliamentarians, the Opposition leader, 17 Cabinet members even the Prime Minister himself have mysteriously disappeared off the face of the earth, never to be heard of again.
I complain not about RAMSI's major achievements, its significant track record in less than eight months of operations and its take charge attitude to get things done and moving once again. Impressive are the number of guns collected, the dangerous criminals locked behind steel bars and the level of law and order achieved in a short time after our recent five years of Social Unrest. What frightens me, however, is the invisibility of our elected members, their no-show in matters which cry out for their involvement and their silence of matters national.
For instance, the national government's State Owned Enterprises (SOE)--SIEA, SIWA, Solomon Airlines, SIPA--are loosing money hand over fist. A few of them, if owned and operated by private owners, would already be in bankruptcy. No matter how much money citizens pump into them on a daily and weekly basis--rate increases climb out of reach--their service to the public weakens monthly. These SOEs limp along ready to be dissolved. A major reason for their inability to operate at modest profit levels is due directly to their inept Boards of Management. Board members (few, if any women are involved) haven't got the foggiest idea how to make things work. Yet, because of cronyism, wontok and corruption, Boards of Management are filled with men devoid of skill, commitment or successful track records. They are too often chosen simply because they are linked to a connected politician.
Isn't this the time to clean house, make a fresh start with members of parliament getting involved with making the Solomons work for all? Shouldn't the House, especially the Prime Minister's Office, weed out incompetent Board Members and set up each SOE with properly accountable individuals who have a minimum of skill, show dedication and have had a track record of success in other areas of life. A board member must be chosen, not because he (once again its all about men) is a failed politician or bankrupt business man, but because the person has skill, dedication and has a proven track record.
Where are our champions, our national leaders, members of Parliament who should be closely identified with the fight against AIDS, are recognized supporters for quality education at the village level, are dedicated to improving the Quality of Village life, champion women's issues, are the backbone support for youth, etc. etc? Embarrass me by public informing the Solomons public that Hon. So and So is well known in his constituency as an outstanding supporter for women, youth, village people, the poor, for education and so on.
Honiara's City Council, for the fourth time no less, has been dissolved once again. What an excellent chance for the three parliamentary members of East, Central and West Honiara to show leadership character, to stand up for the suffering people of the city and to invest their combined Constituency Development Fund into the lives of their people. Rubbish remains uncollected for more than three years now. Honiara's feeder roads are a serious joke, an accident waiting to happen. A major accident--where people will be seriously hurt if not killed--is long overdue. The typical Honiara driver drives to protect the people inside the vehicle and to take reasonable care of his car. However, most pay more driving attention to the dozens of pot holes, deep ditches and dangerous heaps of dirt than to on-coming traffic, walkers along the road and the vehicles driving near by.
What about the Leader of Opposition! Make your mark by insisting that since the country still remains in emergency mode the whole of parliament dedicate itself to running the country correctly, that is within budget and on time? Work with the PM to reduce the inappropriate 18 ministries to 5 major ministries lead by the best five minds now in the House. Show the Solomons world and the rest of the Pacific that Parliament does have leadership clout and is ready to use it for the good of the nation.
The solution for Solomon Islands to rebound, to return to the peaceful life of old and once more become the Hapi Isles is not for RAMSI to do less but for our highest elected officials to do more, much more. Make working with RAMSI the real partnership that it was intended to be from the beginning--Parliament members senior partners and RAMSI junior members to return our nation to health and prosperity. A shadow is an imperfect imitation, copy of something else, a faint indicator. The elected members of Parliament are our chosen leaders . . . no other group can claim that title. Please live up to that job description!