The Kemakeza Government: Before RAMSI and After!
The Kemakeza Government: Before RAMSI and After!
By John Roughan
27 December 2005
Let's make it clear from the start. The Kemakeza government gained significant feathers for its cap while running the Solomon Islands nation. For the first time in our country's quarter of a century's history an elected government had actually stayed in the seat of power for a full four years. With little doubt, parliament's courageous decision to invite the RAMSI 'invasion' to stabilize law and order was government's finest hour. This intervention force literally turned off the whole violence tap, allowed a people to work an economic miracle and brought the nation a sigh of relief at once more getting back their country, safe and secure. For these accomplishments alone, the outgoing government has much to be proud of.
However, during its first 18 months in power--December 2001-July 2003--the government was nothing short of a disaster. Its first 18 months of mismanagement witnessed the growth of the Family Charity Fund where thousands of poor people lost millions of dollars. The FCF cancer was allowed to spread and infect while government fiddled away many opportunities to close it down. Closely allied to this fraud was the RAONK (Royal Association of Nations and Kingdoms) where a PNG conman, Noah Misingku, fooled our Cabinet to forking over to him SI$10 million for a worthless US$2.2 billion cheque. Overseas friends and donors shook their heads in disbelief! How far would the Solomons stoop for money? The answer wasn't long in coming. The Cabinet actively worked on a project to import 3 millions tons of toxic waste, dump it all over Makira's Weather Coast and call this ecological crime, development.
2002 was a bad year for us but 2003 wasn't much better, that is, until RAMSI enters the picture. The people's Report Card (June 2003) said it all. The Kemakeza Government, according to thousands of its own citizens, had failed them miserably. The unquestioning acceptance of bogus compensation claims, bowing to militants intimidation demands and out-right stealing of government money and property had become normal operating procedure. Of course such conduct meant that there was little or no money for quality education, adequate medical attention, boosting resource assistance or creating new ways for people to gain modest amounts of money. It's no wonder that people marked it the lowest of any government since 1989.
Once RAMSI comes on the scene, however, Solomons' life changes from night to day. Let be said right up front that many of these major changes were less from government than from the people themselves. For instance, the Eminent Persons Group report makes it clear whom they feel had let the side down and it wasn't the people. The report clearly states: "that the people did not fail Solomon Islands and in fact it was the people, the churches, the chiefs and the NGOs that kept the communities together". It goes on to say: "There is still a lack of trust in leaders, including the public service. The people of Solomon Islands look to RAMSI for leadership".
Fortunately, the government's last 30 months in power has seen some serious gains and so it should. Currently national security is at its best with hundreds of extra police and military, a robust judicial and strong prison system functioning. The average militant certainly thinks twice about taking the law into his own hands or working outside the law.
Australia, European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and PNG have poured more than a billion dollars into government's coffers and with a small army of accountants riding herd on our finance department, it is no wonder that the economy is on the rebound. At long last we are servicing our outstanding debts, paying off our bills on a regular basis and in general behaving like a responsible nation. But so much of this up beat report has less to do with government working than others doing it for us.
Unfortunately, for the Solomons, there has been little change in leaders' attitudes and less in behavior! Ordinary citizens even in the latest Report Card (July 2005) failed government in its service of quality education, for instance. In spite of millions earmarked for this most important sector, teachers' entitlement--their end of year transport back home--came weeks late. Parliamentarians salaries, allowances and perks, even during the height of social unrest, were always paid and on time.
Now that peace, order and tranquility have once more rooted in the nation, the servants of the people, parliamentarians, haven't changed their ways of acting. Only recently the Speaker of the House suspended a sitting of parliament because too few members bothered to show up for their most important work, that of law making. RAMSI has nothing to do with this kind of conduct.
These lines are written not to embarrass the old house but to instruct the new one. Our next parliamentarians inherit a nation boasting of a robust credit line, many generous overseas donors, a functioning economy and a people filled with potential. Security, with hundreds of extra police and an army to call upon if trouble does raise its ugly head, has never been better. And most importantly, the new parliament will find a people ready and rearing to go, to make the Solomon Islands alive once again. What is needed, however, is solid leadership, commitment and dedication. These were the ingredients sorely missing in the outgoing government.