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John Roughan: A History of Forgetting!

A History of Forgetting!

By John Roughan
21 March 2006

A famous English statesman early last century claimed that a people who fail to remember their history are doomed to repeat it. In other words, nations that pay little attention to their past history, especially their bad times, their mistakes, their shortcomings will repeat them over and over again. Are we in the Solomons guilty of forgetting our past? Do we pay enough attention to our past failings and refuse to remember how we got ourselves into deep trouble? Do we have a history of forgetting?

Women and women's ways are core to the well being of our nation. Not only are they the mainstay to family life, village life as we know it would be impossible without them. Of course keeping families feed immediately leaps to mind. But women's daily chores of looking after the kids, cleaning, brushing and caring for the whole of village life is central for the well being of society.

Yet, over the years, certainly during our independence time, women as decision makers have been decidedly reduced when it comes to village wide issues. Their devaluation becomes more painfully evident on the provincial and especially national levels. The shocking and depressing statistic of the Solomons having had only one woman in parliament while, at the same time, 300 men have filled those posts, shames us. Our nation is only one of 9 other nations worldwide out of 189 others that currently has not a single women in parliament.

Unfortunately this up coming election will not tell a different story. I'm only a voice in the wilderness but it looks like only a single woman, hopefully, two will make it to parliament. As a nation we insist on not recalling our history. A major reason why we suffered so much during our Social Unrest years--1998--2003--can be traced to a number of things. But one certainly is the lack of women representatives at the national decision making level. On 5 April we will once more prove that because we refuse to recall our past, we will be condemned to repeat its failings.

The village, the Solomons' women's public face, is the backbone of national well being. The vast majority of our Big Men--politicians, bureaucrats, public leaders--were born in a village, grew up in one and seemingly don't want to have anything to do with it. There never has been in Solomons' history a Ministry of Villages, not even a Department, but ministries of agriculture, sports, natural resources, infrastructure, etc. etc. abound. 80% of our people call village home yet a fraction of our people, the school kids, have their own special ministry to look after their needs.

The way national leaders treat the village mirrors its treatment of women. Neither side of this inseparable coin--women and the village--carry much clout in the halls of power in spite of keeping the nation going during its trouble years with food, shelter and care. Girls education. for example, continues to lag behind that of boys.Yet, overwhelming evidence points out that for every year young girls attend primary school classes bring a hefty return in the form of healthier children, lower population growth rates and stronger economic output.

Over the recent past three weeks, dozens and dozens of young people had to remind me how we so easily overlook the strength and potential of our youth. Three times a week since the end of February, 60, 70, 90 young people heaped up at SIDT's conference hall. Why? They got no money--in fact, they paid their own bus fares--no kaikai, nothing except to sit down and try to learn if they could be chosen Domestic Observers in the 5 April election day.

These youth, young men and women, were from all over the Solomons. Many were studying at SICHE, USP, secondary schools, and still others belonged to Winds of Change, Solomon Islands Youth for Change while others belonged to no particular group. What they all had in common, however, was a thirst to actively monitor the polling stations on election day. Far from their minds was to be uninvolved from the political issues of the day. They hungered to do something about making sure that the elections were 'fair, free and credible'. They refused to be mere spectators but wanted active participation for the good on the nation.

After all these were the ones who lost the most from our Social Unrest. The Coup leaders, the 'High Commands' of militant groups had basically stolen the youth's future. No matter how hard they study, how well they do in their classes, the reality of the situation is few will find a job. For sure these youth are remembering the past so as not to allow those leaders who refuse to remember the past lead the nation into chaos once again.


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