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John Roughan: Good On You, Allan!

Good On You, Allan!

By John Roughan
19 September 2005

The United Nations heard an unfamiliar sound last week. After 60 years of striding like a giant across the international stage, the UN was forced to listen to some stinging remarks from a small Pacific Islands country's PM. Outside the Pacific, many are hard pressed to find the Solomons on a world map but last week they heard a voice that spelt out a small nation's deep frustrations.

Sir Allan, with no little courage speaking to more than 160 world leaders, faulted the great international body for failing to come to our aid when our government was on its knees. SIG, after more than a quarter century of faithful attachment to the world body, had called upon it to come in and help. We had always paid our UN dues, posted, at great expense, a special ambassador to the great body and faithfully tried to follow its instructions over many years. Yet, in our hour of deepest need, the UN family failed to heed our desperate cries.

The UN's answer was silence. It would be well if Solomon Islands, while the Prime Minister is in New York City, find out why our plea for assistance from the world's most important international body was turned down. Is our close diplomatic, economic and social relationship with Taiwan the basic source of the difficulty? Mainland China is not at all happy with Solomons' conduct for and verbal support of Taiwan on the international stage. Did China, with Security Council veto power, play a role in the UN's refusal to come to our help?

It's important for our government to find out the reasons for this failure to act when we were so desperate. But it wasn't only the UN that failed. The Ulufa'alu government in 1999, when the state was beginning to weaken significantly, asked Australia to come in and help reduce the growing militancy within the country.

Australia's response wasn't silence but refusal! They could not interfere with a soverign nation's internal problems, even when begged to do so by our PM. More than likely had Australia flexed its military muscle earlier then the 2003 multi-nation 'invasion' force, that big show would not have been needed. Of course, in hindsight things are always clearer but our pleas for help both to the UN and Australia were genuine. Our cries were only listened to when world politics shifted with the American-led coalition invasion of Iraq. It's clear, then, that it isn't our internal politics that matters but the interests of other parties.

It's crystal clear that Solomon Islands is weak and unimportant in politics as it is in its economic clout when it comes to operating on the world stage. In simple, plain English we just don't count! If tomorrow our small country would completely disappear beneath a Pacific tsunami, few of the Big Boys could care less. But rather than being depressed at this state of affairs, it's an excellent opportunity to weigh up our major pluses and count our serious minuses.

In recent past years in spite of near state-collapse, a seriously weakened economy and significant social unrest that plagued a few parts of the nation, the vast majority of our people got on with life, made do and even managed to jump start the cash economy in 2002. The village sector, then, is our major strength while it was our political leadership, poorly governed national institutions and inability to manage money that caused the state and its leadership to almost sink below the waves.

We are in an excellent position, once we accept the above statements of what our strengths and weaknesses are, to do some much needed fence mending. A newly elected parliament could do some practical, strengthening exercises. First on its agenda should be policies focusing on strong investment in the lives of our wealth-makers--small farmers, women gardeners, fishers, cocoa/coconut producers--by an up graded road system, more reliable shipping, strengthened communication links, quality education, etc.

The UN's silence and Australia's reluctance to come to our aid means that the Solomons future lies best in our own hands. During our deepest trouble period and in spite of pleadings from two PMs, not a single outside force rushed to our aid. Unlike a number of African countries, however, only a handful of our people went off the rails. In fact the majority grew stronger while much of the state apparatus withered before their eyes. The lesson here is clear: invest in the lives of those who saved the Solomons!


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