RAMSI and Maasina Ruru!
By John Roughan
About sixty years ago, in the mid-1940s, the Solomons witnessed the beginning of a Melanesian freedom movement which basically started the nation on its independence road. It was called Maasina Ruru, an expression from the Are'are language, the people along Malaita's southern coast, meaning Brotherhood Together. The movement began among camp workers, the men who were helping the Americans in the war against the Japanese.
The movement which swept across this small island nation during the 1945-1950 period, had profound effect on the people of the time. It's hard to believe that this small nation at a time when all Africa lay in the grip of colonial powers--India itself was still a British colony--that the Solomon Islanders was asking for their independence. >From humble beginnings, Maasina Ruru, ignited a whole people at a time when communications, transport, education, economic activity and a host of other nation-building essentials were only starting to become a reality in the Solomons. It was not unknown, for example, that a letter written in Auki during these days could be hand delivered in Kira Kira and a written response received back in Auki within less than a week. Today in spite of our modern conveniences we would be hard pressed to have a handwritten letter delivered and answered in less th
Solomonese men of late 1940s saw far into the future. Although they had little schooling, scarce access to communication technology and inexperienced with nation building and governance, they planned to take this small island state into the modern world. They were determined to use the terrible war days, suffering and death to forge a nation out of chaos. They used the time of the intervention forces of Americans and Japanese to forge a new nation. They asked for and in time achieved major structural changes.
One of their first demands, coming from men who had hardly stepped into a classroom, was a plea for schools. The modern Solomon Islands school system began with a government sponsored school just outside Auki, Malaita. Maasina Ruru leaders used the intervention forces of their time to demand and in time achieve major structural changes for the lives of their people. Shouldn't we be doing the same at this moment?
Our most recent experience of a military invention, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)now just two months old, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to re-invent ourselves. No where more in need of re-invention is the education enterprise itself. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, as said above, Maasina Ruru was born. It had the courage to dream and in time to institute some of the greatest structural changes the country had ever witnessed. Those old time leaders demanded and in time did get a political say in their future, better wages for plantation workers and for leaders who had little experience in education, much less formal schooling, they demanded schools for their children. In some demands, they were successful-school started at Auki, the beginning of local councils, e.g. Malaita Council-in others they had sewn the seeds which would germinate a
We currently exist in a unique historical position to completely overhaul an education system that needs substantial reform from top to bottom. Our Maasina Ruru ancestors would have given their back teeth to be in our present position. In their days, they could only ask for structural change and hope that the power forces of their day would at least listen to them and perhaps do something critical about bringing these changes to pass. We, on the other hand, can not only demand structural change, have it gladly paid for by the Intervention force itself but we would literally be in charge of the very change we wish to introduce.
In far less than a 70 days of operations, RAMSI has done a great job: 3,600+ guns collected, some warlords in prison facing court action and many militants on the run. But the basic work of re-inventing our nation has hardly begun. RAMSI has done its work but we have yet to tackle our own problems. Maasina Ruru demanded and achieved major structural changes in their day. We, on the other hand, have not taken this golden opportunity to re-invent ourselves. At least let's start with education and now.