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John Roughan: Our Shadow Government (Round 2)

Our Shadow Government (Round 2)

John Roughan
28 March 2004

The author who penned the PM's response (it certainly didn't come from the PM . . . probably from some accountant or other) against my initial Our Shadow Government misses the point completely. Of course the PM can choose anyone he wishes to write up responses and then having read carefully, can sign off on the article as his own. However, if he does that, then it's important for persons at the PM's level to make sure that what is being said actually raises the PM's profile, not lower it. Otherwise the government is lessened the more!

My original article focused on the current lack of government leadership. To repeat once again, let me remind readers what was said two weeks ago. Our present government remains invisible. I mentioned how important it is to clean up the country's SOEs (State-owned Enterprises: SIWA, SIEA, Solomon Airlines, etc.) whose Boards of Management are inept, unable and incapable of running multimillion dollar enterprises. RAMSI's presence--guns collected, money flowing into the country, security strengthened--gives government a perfect opportunity to clean up a mess of their own making. The PM's response . . . nothing!

Secondly, in a time of emergency government should reduce the 18 ministries to 5. First of all to save some much needed money but more importantly to concentrate government energies on basic services--quality education, functioning clinics--for the people. Parliament should rule out any motions of no confidence at this stage of getting our ship of state back into a safe port. The PM's article is silent!

Thirdly, that each parliamentarian become a champion, a known leader at least in his own constituency of much needed reforms: spreading knowledge about the ravages of AIDS, national leader in quality education, a voice for the village voiceless. etc. No response!

And lastly, that Honiara's three members become actively engaged in re-creating a new city. Honiara has suffered four major political breakdowns in 25 years. Something is terribly wrong with the way Honiara has been governed. Honiara's three members have a duty to be right in the middle of their constituencies leading them to a brighter and better future. No response from anyone!

The 'official' public response, however, fixes readers' attention on my long service with SIDT, not making room for others and about someone who talks too much. I think what the author says about me is probably true. Yes, I do talk too much but what does that have to do with the present government being silent and invisible. Yes, I have been too long at work . . . how I'd love to retire. But once again what does that mean for a government that has disappeared off the face of the earth since RAMSI appeared on 24 July 2003?

Government's basic problem--lack of leadership--remains. SIDT (there I said that nasty word which seems to be such a thorn in government's side!) conducted a survey in June 2003, after the present government had been in power 18 months. Solomons' citizens marked it with the worst Report Card ever given to any government. They marked it at 40% . . . five other government Report Cards dating back to 1989 were higher. Government's response to the survey was total silence. It had hoped that people would excuse their miserable performance because of their fear of the gun.

But the same results recently popped up again. In the RAMSI survey (Star: 9 March), two parts which belong especially to government--Service Delivery and the Better Life--people scored only a bit better than before the arrival of troops on our shores. In other words, in spite of the great flow of overseas aid and the vastly improved security, people's lives have hardly improved on matters which concern them--quality education, working clinics, basic jobs, transportation links, and so on.

RAMSI has taken over major areas of government--security, finance, law and order--and in the minds of many people has literally become the Government. This is an unfortunate development, one which must be remedied quickly. Parliament's next sitting must address this very topic, it must be at the forefront of members' attention. Time is not on our side. In the last quarter of 2004, Australians hold a national election. There are sound reasons to believe that Australia's present government will have a fight on for its political survival. Any new government in Canberra in 2000 will certainly review the Solomons' situation. Preparing ourselves for this event is crucial.

Civil Society, Women's groups, NGOs, the churches and business houses will remind members of their duty. Government must once again take charge of where this nation is headed. We can not leave this work to strangers, to outsiders. At some stage these very same strangers must leave us. Now is the time to prepare. If you find this present voice too harsh, then heed your own people. Let them speak to you.

*** ENDS ***

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