Monday, 1 December 2014 5:03 PM

A Closer Look at Solomon Islands General Election and Considerations

Dear Editorthe Peoples' Alliance Party have agreed to form a coalition to be named the Solomon Islands People's Democratic Coalition.The leader of the Solomon Islands People First Party, Manasseh Maelanga, has described the agreement as historic and heaps of praise has been extended by Australia, including the head of RAMSI, for a successful election.The Australian High Commissioner in Honiara said he was particularly pleased to see the positive impact of the Biometric Voter Registration process, citing "the new role provided greater confidence and reduced opportunities for voter fraud." Is H.E. the High Commissioner right in making such an early judgment? One contrary report in the local Solomons media seems to have challenged such a claim when it was said, "beneath the peace and law and order, the November 19 national general election had amply demonstrated the ugly face of corruption at work at almost every turn."The same article added, "One estimate (from a former government minister) puts the amount of money spent on buying votes at this year's election at more than S100 million in constituencies where the level of education was poor, such extravagance had caused quite an impact to the detriment of our younger generation."Also, quoting from the same media source, the article read, "The biggest farce in all of this (the election process) the new Biometric Voting System (BVS), which gave false hope to those serious about fighting entrenched corruption within our electoral system. From the beginning everyone was falsely led to believe that the ID issued to each voter was an electronic swipe card. It wasn't. As it turned out, the ID card was essentially a corruption tool legitimized by the system. It was open to abuse and fraud."Strong allegations, and surely such a claim should be investigated for, if true, then the results of the widely praised election process wasn't as free and fair as has been claimed.The widespread practice of large sums of money allegedly changing hands to woo independent election winners to join the coalition ranks, reported in broadcasts on Radio New Zealand International, also adds to some doubts on the overall fairness of the election process.Leaving aside such disturbing allegations for thorough investigation, then a new government will be wise to take into serious consideration the recently recorded views of Dr Karl Claxton, an expert on South Pacific security in Melanesia, who works at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.Dr Claxton warns that even after 2017, when the RAMSI police component funding is likely to end, the Solomon Islands Government "will need to decide with friendly governments some mechanisms for providing a better security certainty" He added, the Solomon Islands will need to keep up with rapid social change, pressure on land and population growth.Economic growth and job creation in the immediate short-term could prove highly difficult for a new administration for a very recent forecast from Dr. Shon Cheol-HO, an expert from the National Forestry Cooperative Federation (NFCF) of Korea revealed that the Solomon Islands forest will inevitably become a "sunset industry" facing almost complete depletion of forest resources from 2015 up to the late 2020s. This is not a new prediction because I am on record as having said the same on previous occasions and reported in the Solomon's media.It is my hope that whatever the economic and social occurrences might eventuate, the incoming administration will continue to pursue the cause of national reconciliation and create a fully independent anti-corruption commission with wide powers of investigation and prosecution.Yours sincerelyFrank Short

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

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