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Solomon Islands Royalty!

Solomon Islands Royalty!

By John Roughan

Solomon Islands doesn't have a king. Its Queen resides more than 10,000 miles away in another country. But we certainly do have Royalty! Our Royal Family comes about not through birth or adoption but by being elected into parliament. Once a man reaches this exalted position, he (over the past 27 years, a single woman, while 300 men, made it there) begins to think and act like royalty.

Once a national politician makes it to the Big House on the hill, he fondly expects the Public Purse to keep him, his family, relatives and cronies in a life-style that they quickly grow accustomed to--world class medical attention (at St., Vincent's Hospital in Sydney), guaranteed university scholarships for off spring, varied allowances often exceeding monthly salaries, etc. Even failed national politicians are routinely guaranteed Public Purse backing (appointment to the Prime Minister's Office, board membership on state owned enterprises--electricity, water, ports, etc--position on special commissions with hefty sitting allowances, etc.).

In Solomons' history it's rare for failed national politicians to return to village life or to former work patterns. Once a Royal Family member, he is guaranteed on going support by a system worked out by the rest of the royalty.

The most important thing, however, to retain Royal Family membership is to strictly follow a major rule: never publicly criticize, poke fun at or in any shape, manner or form call into question the dictates of the reigning monarch and his princes, the PM and his Cabinet. Can that explain why former parliamentarians have said so little about the sale of the National Art Gallery, forestry bill never making it to parliament's floor, the Pacific Islands Forum report, etc?

What really upset the Solomons Royalty during the nation's Social Unrest years (1998-2003) was not that the state was placed in mortal danger but that their perks, allowances and, heaven forbid, their life style, came under threat. That peasants' lives (read villagers) came under serious attack, that village life grew harder and future prospects more bleak hardly registered on the Royalty's radar screen. What mattered most was that the Royal Family's life style was in danger of being undermined..

School teachers' salaries, for instance, were left unpaid for more than three months; nurse, medical staff and doctor salaries were conveniently overlooked so that the Royal Family's many kinds of allowances and perks were always paid on time and in full.

When compensation claims for lost property, land holdings and burnt out homes were paid, Royal Family members not only received full compensation but were normally found at the front end of the line. Peasants' homes and lost goods, if compensated at all, were paid at reduced rates and late in the day. To this very day, many genuine sufferers of stolen and burnt out properties still wait for compensation payments!

These facts of life are surfaced at this time, not so much to remind the nation of our recent history, but to insure that concerned outsiders--financial donors, RAMSI personnel, leaders of other nations who speak with local partners about national recovery plans--must extend dialogue partners wider than talking to only members of the Royal Family.

I notice that the Pacific Forum's Eminent Persons' Report which was much more critical of government than RAMSI, will be reviewed only by those closest to the Royal Family. Peasant, serf or outsider need not apply! However, when the peasantry do become too noisy--showing anger at the re-sale of the Art Gallery--, great promises--a multi-level performing arts building to be erected--are unveiled.

It reminds me so much of government promises over the 1995 give-away program to an Asian logging company of Pavuvu's tree wealth. At the time Russell Islands people were solemnly promised their own secondary school, large clinic, roads, etc. Now ten years down the road, Pavuvu's people have yet to see a single promise kept. But continually they are forced to experience a land scarred by loggers who took away their tree wealth! Many Royal Family members of those days are with us still making the same promises.

Our Royalty live by making promises to the peasants. Next year's election should, however, see a shift away from the Royal Family view of the world to one where a new leadership is interested in working for the welfare of all the people. Solomons Founding Fathers never intended a Royal Family . . . there is no room for such in these islands!

J. Roughan



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