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John Roughan: Masks, Hoods And Threats Won't Do It

Masks, Hoods And Threats Won't Do It!

By John Roughan
23 May 2005

Two weeks ago, a tiny group of masked men from Northern Malaita, made serious demands. They wanted the Prime Minister to step down immediately, for RAMSI to act more even-handedly, to arrest militants who had worked closely with the PM, to stop treating Malaitans poorly, etc. etc. Many of their demands were on target! The way they went about making them, however, seriously weakened their cause.

First of all making any kind of demands, no matter how valid and correct, by wearing masks and hoods in public, and issuing threats undermines anything they had to say. Who in the their right mind pays attention to what a group of hooded men say. They are afraid to show their faces. Their message might have merit but masks, hoods and threats get in the way. The message is more, much more, important but in this case the messengers got in the way of the message!

Many Solomon Islanders heartily agree that the present PM, his cabinet (what's not yet in Rove!) and his back benchers have been nothing short of a national disaster. Not only has this government failed miserably to service its people--lowest Report Card score (40%) of any government since 1989--but even with the might of RAMSI backing them up they have failed to change their ways.

How many ministerial overseas trips--our debt burden has grown to well over a billion dollars--is enough? Are 20 ministers really necessary to govern this small country in a time of financial crisis? Couldn't serious money be saved by cutting back the 20 to four or five ministers? How is the parliamentarian Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF)--currently at $20 million a year-- managed (mostly mismanaged by members)? This fund remains the single most corrupting influence in today's politics. People treat their members as 'walking ATMs'--push some buttons and outcomes money--and few members care to change this kind of slush-fund politics!

State owned enterprises--SIWA, SIEA, SIPA, etc--have yet to undergo a thorough cleansing of their Boards of Management although RAMSI's two-year presence would be a perfect time for this house cleaning. Foreign logging companies--in 2004 exported over a million cubic meters of timber and these same forest destroyers with the help of local and national leaders are well on their way to another million cubic meter export in 2005--with not a peep out of our present government.

May I suggest to our 'masked brothers' on Malaita and others thinking of following their lead to destroy the masks and hoods, forget gun threats and join a national campaign to get rid of our current poor lot of so called leaders? Rather than hiding faces behind masks, journey over to Savo and study how the PM as well as other Honourables in your own area are gearing up for the next national election. Interview citizens and ask them how the people's RCDF money is being used. Make your findings known and vote accordingly!

Our country has historically turned a serious corner . . . no longer does the gun rule. If RAMSI has done anything and it has done much, then the gun culture which ruled our 1998-2003 days is finally behind us. Very, very few people want a return of the gun in any form. Fortunately the rule of law, robust freedom and a living democracy are making a come back. Let's use these positive forces to gain a future for ourselves but especially our children and our children's children.

Yes, of course, the masks, hoods and guns threats get attention . . . but for all the wrong reasons. Many still fear that the 'bad old days' of guns, intimidation and killings could make a come back. Did you notice when the Eminent Persons Group visited Auki and parts of North Malaita last week, people in their thousands turned out in support, many carrying signs declaring their joy for RAMSI's work and others made it quite clear they wanted peace to stick around for a long, long time.

The message for me was people liked what they were seeing and experiencing. Of course they wanted some things changed but the return of the gun wasn't one of them. Yes, they said continue with a vigorous policing and court system but now is the time to go after the 'Big Fish', the ones who drove the nation to its knees in the first place.

Many ask the Malaitan Separatists to throw in their lot with those people who are actively trying to create a new nation, one that serves the majority and not the interests of a few. Don't follow the path of the Guale leadership of old nor the Malaita coup response . . . both destroyed the nation, each in its own way. Guale leaders sought to correct government's twenty years of neglect by closing down SIPL, Gold Ridge and all Guadalcanal economic activity. Malaita leadership's reaction wasn't much better: take over the state, destroy the economy and loot the treasury all in the name of compensation which never came. Neither plan worked except in favour of a few but at the expense of the many.


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