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John Roughan (Honiara): Third Time Lucky?

Third Time Lucky?

John Roughan
23 April 2006

We had a fair go at making a great nation of ourselves in 1978 and failed the test miserably by the late 1990s. Then RAMSI kicked in a few years ago but once again we blotted our copy book. This time, however, it took less than three years to come to grief. Now, for a third time we are given a chance through this week's 'motion of no confidence' to set up the necessary steps to re-create ourselves with a winning formula to rescue our nation. I'm not over confident, however, we will do the job any better than our two previous attempts.

The up coming 'no confidence motion' is not simply about a Snyder Rini leadership. It is not about one group winning over another! It is fundamentally about the future of our nation. On my return to the Solomons last week, I was sick at heart to see Chinatown's destruction, the meaning of the deep scars these burnt out buildings send to the rest of the world and the useless loss all this stupidity represents. But more deeply I sensed the fear, the dismay and the people's loss of confidence in themselves.

At the beginning of our journey to build our nation in the late 1970s, people had great confidence in themselves. We knew of course that it would be hard but we also knew that with a little bit of luck and our ability to work hard, use local resources--fish, timber, cash crops, productive soil--and led by a young, dynamic leadership could win the day. Villagers still work hard--they jump started our economy from below zero to 5.8% before RAMSI came on the scene. The local resource base remains strong still. It has been the continuous failure of leadership on many levels that has let us down.

Few are the nations in this modern world that get three chances at re-inventing themselves. Our 1978 attempt moved slowly along the right track until 1986 when we turned away from lifting the whole nation to a better life. Leaders thought they could buy their way to the 'basic life' by wholesale destruction of our forest resources. Politicians of all stripes thought they had at last found a way to 'easy money' . . . allow Asian loggers complete and utter access to people's tree wealth. For the following ten years--1987-1997--these marauding bands of crooks with the help of politicians, village headmen, con artists, etc. helped themselves to millions of dollars of people's wealth. The backbone of this country, the village and the villager, grew weaker and weaker. Poverty's hard hand sat heavily upon the country.

The Coup of 2000, once again led by a group of misguided and selfish leaders, thought it had finally found the correct formula for success. Control government and its finances and the economy strengthens especially for those on top. However, the very opposite happened! The economy could be likened to a delicate flower which needs constant care, careful watering and tender nourishment. The worst thing that can happen to it is to be yanked up by its roots and experience harsh treatment. During the days following the Coup--2000-2002--the economy fell to its knees, our currency had little value both overseas and locally and its life blood, investment dollars from interested people, disappeared immediately. Had it not been for the village sector's work and RAMSI's arrival, the nation would have perished.

Now the burning down of Chinatown and the torching of many other Chinese businesses is like a Fire Coup. Although these business houses and owners lost much it is we who have lost the most. As in the Coup of 2000, Solomons is no longer seen as a place to invest but a place to avoid like the plague. More than 1500 scarce jobs went up in smoke in a single night. Thousands of our people--women, children, school kids, sick and elderly--depended upon the income from these jobs so they are left to beg for their supper.

The looming debate on the 'no confidence motion must not focus simply about Mr. Rini but what do parliament members understand is our deep sickness of soul. How could a nation so blessed by the Almighty stoop so low as to ruin another people's future! Fortunately, no one was killed and even no one was physically hurt. But what about next time? What do the 50 members think is our soul sickness that is continually rearing its ugly head over these past 28 years and doesn't seem ever to go away?

We face no invading army at our shores! No sickness is bringing down hundreds of our people! In fact there are no external enemies only internal ones. Our problem is not the savage beast from the outside but an internal cancerous growth. It is one deep within ourselves and one we have yet to face up to.

A parliamentary debate focusing on the fundamental meaning of why we as a nation are experiencing deep trouble would be the first time that our national leadership would publicly grapple with such an important topic. Please, Members, take the necessary time to share with the Solomons world what each and every member thinks what is wrong and right with our nation. Pointing fingers, wringing hands or crying over spilt milk, however, is not a successful formula to bring this nations to its true future. A thoughtful sharing of insights on what members think is our problem, perhaps, might make the difference of becoming lucky the third time.


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