Saturday, 12 January 2008 5:14 PM

Former Ministers defy calls to return Gov't vehicles

The people of Solomon Islands now know the lack of sincerity, integrity and genuineness of the former PM and his ex-ministers by their refusal to return Gov't properties that were given to them by the State in their official capacities as former ministers. In this instance, I am referring to the government vehicles which the former PM and his ex-ministers have refused to return.

One would have though that since losing the Prime Ministership and government, the former PM would work hard to repair his reputation and that of his former cohorts, now in the Opposition. Their refusal to return SIG vehicles reminds Solomon Islanders of his former government's controversial stance on many important decisions in his short 18 months stint as PM.

Perhaps more alarming for Solomon Islanders is the fact that the former PM and his ex-ministers wanted to go to court to sort the matter out. It needs to be said here that, in most circumstances, politics and the law are not siblings or even cousins. A good case in point is the deportation of the former PM's Attorney-General, Julian Moti. While legally the deportation should not have been carried out when the Magistrate Court order subsists, political considerations and convenience dictates that Moti must be deported. In other words, it was the most popular thing to do.

Therefore, the most prudent thing to do was/is to return those vehicles to the new government for allocation to new ministers, without making a big fuss about it. If this is too high a moral ground for the former PM and his ex-ministers to undertake, then the next sensible thing to do is to garage those vehicles with the appropriate government departments while the parties sort the issue out in court. This is what Solomon Islanders expect from the former unpopular PM and his team.

Sadly, but not surprising for me and many Solomon Islanders, this is not the case. I note the former PM's lawyer, Mr. Rano, saying that he had advised the former PM and ex-ministers to maintain "legal custody" of the government's vehicles pending adjudication in court. I do not know if Mr. Rano has the capacity to use such terms for it is basically the issue of legal ownership of those vehicles that is now the center of this row between the popularly-led government of Dr. Sikua and the ever-fading and controversial Opposition.

By the time this row is resolved one way or the other, one thing is for sure: it helps the popular government of Dr. Sikua becoming even more popular with ordinary people of Solomon Islands and pushing the ever-fading new Opposition Group to irrelevance and total oblivion.

If the former PM- now Opposition Leader- wants to play politics with his political rivals on this issue, well, it is no winner for him and his group for all practical purpose. He chose a wrong issue to play politics with the popular government of Dr. Sikua. As previously mentioned above, regardless of the outcome, the former PM stand on this non-issues plays well into the hands of the popularly-led government of Dr. Sikua.

Since 2006 I have had the misfortune to entertain serious doubts whether politics is a suitable occupation for the former PM. This latest issue heightened my doubts. Well respected and seasoned politicians will surely look at this sort of issue and quickly dismiss it as having no political merits for themselves. I am also dead certain that even a political novice will not have a too difficult time to rule such an issue, as this one, as a no-winner for them. In other words, there is no gain for them or loss to their political opponents.

The government's stand is wholly endorsed by the ordinary people of Solomon Islands. It needs the vehicle now so that it does not have to import new ones. Solomon Islanders need not be reminded of the high cost of those vehicles. Holding on those vehicles may give a good excuse to the popular Dr. Sikua's government to import new cars. If such a situation turns out to be the case, the people of Solomon Islands may accept the reason for such an import but will surely question why former ministers, including a former PM, should be driving around in government vehicles that have been "bought" for peanuts. Moreover, the people of Solomon Islands will also hold the former PM and his ex-ministers accountable for the imports, not so much the popular Sikua/Fono-led government.

The former PM and his ex-ministers action clearly shows and confirms to many Solomon Islanders that these men are more interested in their daily comforts than to help alleviate many daily hardship faced by ordinary people. John F. Kennedy famous words that one must not ask what his/her country can do for him/her but what he/she can do for the country appears not to be embraced by the former PM and his cohorts. Their sincerity, integrity and genuineness as national leaders must be seriously questioned by all Solomon Islanders now as in the past.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Andy D Muaki and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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