Monday, 24 September 2012 7:50 PM

Maintaining support is the root of the problem.

Dear Editor,
I would like to clarify my intentions on with the topic by which I have personally brought my frustration over government spending on unnecessary trips overseas that was raised by the public.

As you may have noticed I have specifically given my own opinions over the role of the prime minister in a very general but brutal way. Before I continue, I would like to apologize first, if my previous letter came over a bit too personal. Despite this, I believe that as democratic society, we can always give our opinions and as Solomon Islanders we are entitled to holding our government accountable. First and foremost, I believe that I have touched on an issue that many Solomon Islanders are concerned with and I would like to continue on clarifying the intentions for why I have raised the public's frustration with inadequate explanation of costly trips overseas.

If I can re-iterate clearly my intentions for writing, it has every reason to do with the fact that there are costs involved with regards to government trips overseas, especially, when we are economically recovering slowly but positively.

Given that the delegation from Solomon Islands to the United Nations, left without providing adequate information to the public, I believe this is a direct mistrust of confidence between the people of Solomon Islands and their current government and it is an attitude that has been shaping the political culture of Solomon Islands in a very negative way over the past decade.

Consider the fact that every time we let Prime Ministers in the future tame parliamentarians with money and shape the political culture of Solomon Islands with short and rushed information on overseas trips, the power of the people to hold government in check becomes weaker and weaker.

If Solomon Islanders continue to allow governments in the future to just walk all over them without providing transparent coverage over the specific details of such a costly trip, then what we are doing is allowing an environment for any government in the future to shape our political culture that consists of our beliefs and expectations between the government and the people.

We cannot allow a culture of material incentives take over moral judgements every time money is involved. This must not continue. This practice must end and Solomon Islanders must realize that letting governments do away with these sorts of practices will only encourage more room for corruption. Moreover it will institutionalize the behaviour of delaying to speak out against the government, in such a way that it will eventually become the norm of society to sit back and watch governments take off without being transparent.

This will eventually lead to a manifestation of democracy on the surface level that lacks structure and authentic function resulting in the loss of confidence in our own democratic institutions itself and within government affairs. Leaving everything totally up to the opposition of the day, to remedy the issues and growing concerns that the public have towards the government, should not always be the case, when our current government can become much more transparent in explaining themselves for why such a large number of Solomon Islands delegates going overseas.

I believe that it is essential for Solomon Islanders to speak out against the government on such behaviours and I believe that time is now. It will serve as reminder to the Opposition, that even though the government does not strongly take into consideration their thoughts and opinions about costly trips overseas, they should be confident because they have support from a political active people.

Certain times, there are moments when Solomon Islands hear Opposition leaders turning up drunk to meetings in parliament and have lost the confidence of the people. However regardless of these trending thoughts, although they may lose confidence in certain areas of their conduct with their roles as representatives, Solomon Islands as a nation is still receptive and purposeful in its course of development and individuals are fully aware of government behaviour and as such the Opposition should never lose confidence in criticizing the government.

Although it is understandable to accept the notion that as a parliamentarian, the Prime Ministers role and the role of his associates along with other parliamentarians, are highly involved with a vast number of international boards, groups and organizations that exist, they should not neglect growing concerns from the public, especially with regards to trips overseas that contradict public opinion on government spending.

Leaving without adequately providing information about what constitutes the decision for a large team, does not always reflect an accurate perspective and position about them, as effective communicators who have the ability to attract publicity. Although it can be acknowledged that parliamentarian networking on these occasions, can develop new insights through the interaction of different perspectives and approaches, foster change in policies and practice, enlarge the capacity of all members, it should also be noted that the confidence of the people should not be destroyed by an on-going neglect on behalf of the Prime Minister towards growing concerns by the public.

Consider this dilemma; we have a west minister system. If parliamentarians are bought off with money, then it would be difficult to have a full parliament for comment and action on reports that have been reviewed by the public accounts committee or with those directly associated with representing similar issues. As Solomon Islanders, we cannot allow a central cabinet to dictate the political culture and outcome of Solomon Islands through the behaviour of taming parliamentarians with money. This perception that everything is permissible when money is available is a corrupt view that destroys the dignity of our democratic institutions. This must be eradicated from our political culture and it must not be entertained at all. Future development depends on it and this type of behaviour must end. I wish independent-minded reporters would prompt official bodies to launch formal investigations into these short-noticed trips. It seems that past governments have always been able to get away with this type of behaviour.

The prime minister should know that although Solomon Islands and its people power within civil society groups are limited in voicing out there concerns over growing issues, (such as those directly neglected by the prime minister's trip overseas) there will come a time, when young people will press for change through laws and regulations, shape public hostility, that can lead to electoral defeat for politicians or entire governments, expose commercial abuse, reinforce the work of anti-corrupt offices and to the extreme, even stir up a revolution, because they become frustrated and disgusted by government affairs in handling money and disgusted by 'envelope journalism' and the lack of transparent and accountable conduct on state affairs.

It will only be a matter of time now, before moral crusades that have failed in the past, will pick up with efficacy and Solomon Islands will have a situation on their hands, where ordinary Solomon Islanders no longer develop a mix of incentives, but a more developed purposeful appeal supplemented by targeted incentives, that will ultimately establish the goal of better politics and administration in the near future. I believe the current government should not get too excited about turning down civil groups that lack the capacity to voice out people's opinions, nor become ignorant of people's concerns simply because it has successfully by passed a motion of no confidence, but it should all the more pay close attention to the people and their opinion and develop a relationship between the government and the people that is based on trust and transparency.

If we were to uncover the source of the problem then we would all know that party politics is the major cause and maintaining support is the main concern and overall assumption, for most of these overseas trips. We are all aware that proper functions of democracy with regards to party formations have not been properly institutionalized over the years because Solomon Islands is still a very young democratic state. As a result, members of parliament are securing support through dishing out money. The major cause of the problem is not the activity of dishing out favours, but it is the lack of internal rules that lead to the changing relations between party members and loyalty that has given reason to bribe for support.

It is simple, if parties do not develop proper rules and procedures to regulate their internal life, they will not attract party members. If they do not attract party members, they will not be able to finance themselves with membership fees. If they cannot satisfy their financial needs legally, they will satisfy them illegally. I believe if we look beyond the need for the trip, maintaining support is the root of the problem and we need stronger internal rules in our political parties so that the temptation to dish out funds in order to win over support, does not heighten the problem of 'voluntary disclosure by government' on state affairs overseas. I wish the Prime Minister all the best and I hope that Solomon Islanders can continue to exert its people power strongly in all areas of concern.

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

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