Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

John Roughan: The Dog Ate My Homework!

The Dog Ate My Homework!


John Roughan
14 November 2005
Honiara

These words were the creation of a young school kid to excuse himself for not fronting up with a homework assignment. The class teacher could give such a student an 'A' for clever thinking but would certainly lecture the boy for failing to turn in his homework. However, last week the Minister's excuse "My car didn't work!" to clear himself for not attending an important parliament sitting showed neither creativity nor more importantly understanding how critical parliament's work is to the sound running of the nation. After all, Honiara boasts fleets of taxis and a phone call or two would soon secure a ride for the stranded minister.

The PM immediately sacked both offending ministers for failing to attend parliament. This was not only correct but long overdue. But ministers not showing up at parliamentary meetings is a clear sign of how far off our present members understand what this body is about and how its ineffectiveness over many years has led to the weakening of good governance. Ministerial no show, unfortunately, is not new. Parliament's last session only a few months back, for instance, was cut short. The Speaker was forced to adjourn the whole last day's proceedings because the house lacked the required numbers.

Unfortunately for our country, Cabinet has taken over running the nation while parliament, the law making part of government, has shown itself much too weak. The whole idea behind a strong working democracy is that government's three branches--the law makers, the executive with its ministries and the judicial--work best when they are in balance and pull in harmony. If one part of government dominates for too long, as has been the Solomons case, then the whole fabric of governance weakens.

Last week, for instance, the Rennell and Bellona member, revealed in parliament that Cabinet disregarded its own rules. It had officially appointed a select group of parliamentarians to study the sale of the Cultural Centre. However, Cabinet forged ahead on its own and sold the property to a PNG developer BEFORE committee members had a chance to discuss the issue. This decision and others like it clearly show that Cabinet sees itself alone as government and the other two branches are minor players.

If, however, Cabinet members had proven themselves, over the past four years, to be sterling leaders, exhibiting astute business sense and forward looking, then the nation would probably forgive them their excesses. But the opposite has been the case! History is hard pressed to find another Cabinet over the last twenty-seven years of independence that has witnessed so many ministers actually serving jail time, others currently facing serious criminal charges, as a group easily duped by overseas con men and guilty of trying to import million of tons of toxic waste in the name of development.

These mistakes are public knowledge. What of others not yet surfaced? Waiting in the investigative wings are certainly even more serious cases of fraud, submitting false compensation claims and gross misuse of public funds. These failings are not simply something on the personal level but have affected the whole nation for years. Had parliament, however, been more pro-active, more involved with the good working of the nation, national interests would have been better served.

The fact that parliament sits for less than 50 days a year is a travesty of good governance. This is a major reason why many parliamentarians think their major role is to be a social welfare officer--handouts for medical, schooling, transport, etc.--and a development worker funding projects. Since they spend less than 50 days a year in law making, the other 300 days are taken up with these roles: welfare and development. When members of the public and parliament itself seek more session days, the executive cries: "No money!" This becomes a convenient way to keep parliament weak and ineffective. The few days each year that parliament sits does much to undermine its proper work. Side lined to part time work, the institution has grown unimportant. The PM and Cabinet lay themselves open to the charge that they fear a dynamic, full time and working parliament. One that keeps a watchful eye on the executive, how it spends the national budget but especially acting in a monitoring role on ministerial work.

The new parliament to take office in March 2006 has its work cut out. A booming economy with machinery of government working well are incapable of themselves to bring the Solomons back in balance. New House members, for national health, must insist on the rightful place of the institution among the Executive and Judiciary branches. Anything less is unacceptable.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Ian Powell: Rescuing Simpson From Simpson

(Originally published at The Democracy Project ) Will the health reforms proposed for the Labour Government make the system better or worse? Health commentator Ian Powell (formerly the Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical ... More>>

Missions To Mars: Mapping, Probing And Plundering The Red Planet

In the first month of 2020, Forbes was all excitement about fresh opportunities for plunder and conquest. Titled “2020: The Year We Will Conquer Mars”, the contribution by astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter was less interested in the physics than the conquest. ... More>>

Richard S. Ehrlich: Coup Leader Grabs Absolute Power At Dawn

BANGKOK, Thailand -- By seizing power, Myanmar's new coup leader Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has protected his murky financial investments and the military's domination, but some of his incoming international ... More>>

Jennifer S. Hunt: Trump Evades Conviction Again As Republicans Opt For Self-Preservation

By Jennifer S. Hunt Lecturer in Security Studies, Australian National University Twice-impeached former US President Donald Trump has evaded conviction once more. On the fourth day of the impeachment trial, the Senate verdict is in . Voting guilty: ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Let The Investigation Begin: The International Criminal Court, Israel And The Palestinian Territories

International tribunals tend to be praised, in principle, by those they avoid investigating. Once interest shifts to those parties, such bodies become the subject of accusations: bias, politicisation, crude arbitrariness. The United States, whose legal and political ... More>>

The Conversation: How To Cut Emissions From Transport: Ban Fossil Fuel Cars, Electrify Transport And Get People Walking And Cycling

By Robert McLachlan Professor in Applied Mathematics, Massey University The Climate Change Commission’s draft advice on how to decarbonise New Zealand’s economy is refreshing, particularly as it calls on the government to start phasing out fossil ... More>>

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog