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John Roughan: Movement But Little Change!

Movement But Little Change!

By John Roughan
7 November 2005

Last week's meeting with Solomon's major donor partners saw a lot of movement but little basic change. The nation's recent five years of social turmoil, although recognized as the most fundamental change-event of our short history, is too often viewed as a bit of bad luck or what happened in a few isolated places--Guale's Weather Coast, Marau, North Malaita, Gizo. etc. which caused serious economic downturn.

Our leaders continue to think, speak and act as if these serious events were happenings outside our normal life patterns and therefore can be healed by establishing a more robust economy, better working of government machinery and healthy doses of donor support. In other words, it's only a case of getting the external factors right and little or nothing to do with how we ourselves must change.

There's some truth here but the solutions heard at the donor conference fail to tackle head on the roots of our problems. Over the years, certainly after the events of Cyclone Namu in 1986, government has seriously drifted further and further from the people of the nation. And the voting public, recognizing this growing rift, constantly denied parliamentarians less and less ballot box support.

Study the election results over the past five national elections:

1984 % 1989 % 1993 % 1997 % 2001 % AVERAGE %

50% or above of the vote
24 ---|--- 16 ---|--- 30 ---|--- 24 ---|--- 20 ---|--- 23

Below 50% of the vote
76 ---|--- 84 ---|--- 70 ---|--- 76 ---|--- 80 ---|--- 77

Over a twenty year history at the polls, citizens were voting in fewer and fewer members with 50% of the vote. More than 7 out of ten members, in fact, attracted less than 50% of the vote. Even worse, 3 out of 10 elected members couldn't attract 30% of the vote in their constituency. The 2006 poll, more over, will show more unpopularity with parliament members than ever before.

Government missed a great opportunity to demonstrate to the generous international donor partners that it had finally turned an important corner with its long suffering people. Long had the nation's other major governance workers--church, Civil Society, business houses, especially women--been kept outside the halls of power. Last week's donor conference again demonstrated the old familiar pattern! Government ministers and they alone know what ails Solomons' society. It is their plans, their ways of doing things and an all male cast more over that we are assured will return the Solomons to its former peacefulness. But this is the very same crowd who lost the peace in the first place and brought the nation to its knees.

This current week allows the government another excellent opportunity for parliament to break the mold. This session, the Budget debate, the most important meeting of the Law Makers, should be packed with all 50 members, all day long. Already, however, the Deputy Speaker, pleads for members to show up for meetings, participate in discussion and pass the 2006 Budget. But it won't happen that way!

The table above gives fair warning to present members. Most, I think it will be 35 out of 50, will be sent packing! So many members are reading the writing on the wall . . . this is their last fling in the Big House on the Hill. Their retirement perk, more than $40,000 each, will be eaten up by next year's campaign, and nothing will be left to them to live the life that they have come accustomed to. Many of them are worried how they can make this Budget session a way of getting a bigger part of the budget pie even if they lose the election.

Thinking of the nation, working for the well being of people and assuring that the 1998-2003 Social Unrest period never returns seems as far away as it was in the years leading up to our troubles. Is it any wonder that voters will reject them!


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