Thursday, 18 December 2008 2:04 PM

Use of Rural Fund Heart of Debate

The use of the Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) continues to be one of the country's key political issues.

This issue has become heart of debate as Parliament passed its $2.4 billion 2009 budget last week.

The latest very direct, and rather personal, media confrontation is between the Minister for Tourism and MP for Rennell and Bellona, Seth Gukuna, and the Premier of the Rennell and Bellona Province, Johnston Peseika.

In a recent article in the Solomon Star, Minister Gukuna attacked Premier Johnston over his submission to this year's Premiers conference at Lata in September on MP's being involved in service delivery in the rural areas.

This is in relation to the disbursement of the RCDF's $1 million per MP and the Millennium Fund and Livelihood Fund where MP's are also reportedly receiving $1 million each.

Premier Johnston questioned whether it is right to channel so much fund money through one individual when the provincial governments, which make up the country's second tier government, get less than a quarter of the funding channeled through MPs.

The Premier of Malaita Province, Richard Naamo Irosaea, also raised the same issue during the Lata conference.

The issue received unanimous support of all of the country's premiers who included it as a key item in their final communiqué.

Rennell-Bellona Premier Johnston said that the issue was a collective position of the premiers and a part of the official communiqué for the Cabinet and all MPs to consider, not just one MP.

In response, Mr. Gukuna, while speaking in parliament, said he does not support the idea by the provincial premiers who want government to pay money from the millennium and livelihood funds to the provincial assemblies instead of members of parliament.

He described the idea as stupid, a statement described as demeaning the respect and integrity of provincial premiers as leaders, causing a stir and demand from premiers for an apology from the national leader.