The dropping of the proposed ten reserved seats by the government Caucus as revealed by the Prime minister is welcoming to those who opposed the issue since it was hotly debated in the media.
Though they (TSM Working Group) are yet to receive official feed back from the government Caucus, it would appear that the decision will remain the same as already revealed by the Prime minister. Speaking from analytical perspective, the revelation from the PM summed up the whole decision being reached by the Caucus regarding the proposed 10 reserved seats.
First of all, I must thank our women who spear heading the Special Temporary Measures for them to gain 10 reserved seats in the parliament for their time and effort spent in the past months in their campaign.
Since this issue was hotly debated in the media in the past months, I follow it by keeping a media diary on those who infavour and against. I monitor only the two media that are available on line namely; the Solomon star (www.solomonstarnews.com) and Solomon times (www.solomontimes.com).
This issue attracts fellow Solomon Islanders both in the country and those living abroad which most of them are students by profession.
The limitations to my media diary are:
[i] time constraintment (priorities assignments and school related works)
[ii] the fact that Solomon star does not update daily especially to bring to date issues online as the Solomon times did and
[iii] I cannot easily identify those who expressed their views from abroad whether they are student by profession or migrant workers. Those that I referred to as students (below) are the very ones that I knew personally.
It has been established that a total of 44 people are contributing to the above issue. Generally speaking, it might higher than the above mentioned number. This is due to the fact that a handful of contributors had expressed their views more than once. In my case I take into account and consider only the first comment regarding the issue either he/she support or against.
Concerning the 44, only 9 people support the proposed reserved seats while 35 against it. Regarding the 9 contributors, 3 are student studied abroad and 6 from Honiara. And from the 9 there are only two female which one of the two also giving her views from abroad.
With regards to the 35 who opposing the 10 proposed reserved seats, 10 of them are students studying overseas (Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and Taiwan). 3 out of the 10 are female students while the rest are male students. 2 contribute from Hamburg DE and Washington DC which I can't easily distinguish their identity (whether students or migrant workers). From the 35, 4 contributors are from the matrilineal societies while only 2 from patrilineal societies in the Solomon Islands which total up only to 6 from the provinces. The rest are giving their residential areas in the capital.
As far as the students abroad are concern, almost all of them are expressing their views on Solomon times as a result of their quality management of updating their site daily. Only one student (whom I knew personally) is expressing his views in the Solomonstar.
With reference to the 35 whom against, many don't want the status quo to be changed. To back that up, they base their arguments on religious ground, traditionally and culturally, mental shift and etc. The most two ground which most of the contributors based their argument on are [i] the national constitution and [ii] the democratic process.
Many support women to enter parliament. However, not through the back door as the 10 proposed reserved seats. But only if they could go through the democratic process which is through election. The doors are widely open through the Electoral Act and the National Constitution. Such proposed 10 reserved seats will set a bad precedent.
They support the need for more women in parliament but it must be through and elective and legal process. No problem, even if the 50 seats in parliament are all occupied with women, but has to do it within the constitution.
Contributors support their argument based on women locally and abroad who manage to get into the parliament through the right door which is the democratic process. They conclude by highlighting that any action apart from the two would be unconstitutional and undemocratic.
For those infavour, they based their argument on the potentiality of women by emphasizing that women can do it if they were given the free 10 seats. Others argued on areas which women had contributed significantly to the country in the past. To gain weight, they go as far by exemplifying countries abroad where women actively took part in the parliament.
This issue was also a hotly debated in our politics class especially during tutorials through the lenses of political engineering and women representation in the Pacific context. The same situation prevails; some in favour while majority of class against. Even our Politics lecturer and tutor, a woman (Dr.) by profession had support the proposed idea of reserving 10 seats for women to address the under representative of women in parliament especially in Melanesian societies. She emphasized that the promotion of women leaders in the Pacific Islands parliaments is a priority in a region where women's role in national leadership is one of the lowest in the world.
Because this issue was very important as far as the Pacific parliaments are concern, she even includes it in our final exam in the essay section I quote; 'outline and discuss three different strategies which you would adopt as a policy maker to increase the participation of women in a Pacific Island country parliament'. End of quote.
Regarding the Solomon Islands issue, despite what appears to be a major setback, Chairperson of the TSM Working Group and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs still stand tall by emphasizing that this is not the end of the Temporary Special Measures campaign. Her group will look at new strategies to lead their work in how best to get to the 10 reserved seats.
Let us put this issue to rest now because the decision already reached. No matter how may times the TSM try to pursue and push it forward, the decision still stand: No means No; full stop. The decision cannot be reversed. No matter whatever course of action and direction they may take, it will go through the same process again.
All in all, thats what democracy is all about; the decision always based on the majority. Issues which stir nation-wide debate (like the reserved seats for women) must be discussed and debated at length so that responsible authorities could have adequate information and see both sides of the picture from public perspective before decision can be reached.
And so, though the Working Group is yet to receive official feedback from Caucus regarding the decision, it is highly likely that the outcome will remain the same: 'Sorry women, No 10 Reserved seats, the House already reach its maximum carrying capacity, may be next time. Good try'.
To the conservatives, its a sigh of relief, and to the TSM Working Group, other strategies and measures have to be implemented and put in place inorder for the 10 seats to be reserved for the women elites who are overwhelmingly behind the move.
To conclude, we are right now in a wait and see situation. Lets wait and see what will be their new strategies in how to get the 10 reserved seats. Who knows, the number might increase to 20 with their up coming strategies.
Good try TSM Working Group.
10 Resrved Seats for women
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Danny Asa and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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