Rural development has been the thematic policy that many successive governments and intending candidates running for rural constituency MP posts around the country are alluding to as priority and fundamentally necessary to Solomon Islands. This policy is projected with the view of improving the socio-economical and political livelihood of the nation's rural dwellers who form about 80% of the country's national population. Fundamental to this view is a strong desire to discourage migration into urban centres such as Honiara where they would be vulnerable to the many risks of urban indecent life styles and would eventually become victims.
As a keen rural dweller, I applaud the invention and the logic of this policy and all along I have been a strong person behind this move to invite our rural dwellers and even wantoks who have permanent employments in Honiara to recognise the view of developing and underpinning the theory of rural development to the extend that they ought to engage in decentralising private resources such as money and what ever they own in Honiara to build something substantial in their own rural villages. However despite the many encouragements given, there were little responses as Honiara "sweetim everyone" remains the principle reality.
Solomon Islands as a nation given birth and breed from colonial imperialism, it was embedded with a collective psychology of "whiteman goods and urban" based theory . This is a deadly epidemic we need to treat and rectify if we are determinant to progressive Historically we are part of a colonised world where we were led to believe on the aspiration of white-man goods not realising the horrors, pains and injuries that it carry with it. The nation was on the move to search for the location where whiteman-goods were numerously available. People begun rejecting village life, food, artefacts and tools and even reluctant to speak their native vernaculars and languages. Migration begun in search for the land of milk and honey. Today this psychological trend is at its height and worse still it is currently affecting our national policy makers and weaken their spirits and capacities to set visions meaningfully so that they could be implemented tangibly to the rural areas within reasonable time frame. Honiara is still fundamentally crucial to the governments psychology and plans and while many paper-plans were set to realise a shift in development from urban to rural areas the reality is far from truth.
But central to our experience the events unfolding around us such as the recent ethnic conflicts on Guadalcanal, the burning of China Town, the current illegal prostitution in Honiara, family breakdown, increased of crime rates in Honiara and the ongoing illegal settlement of many squatters around Honiara, should set the alarm clock in high volume to give signal for the current government and members of parliament to rectify the current the colonial syndrome that has invaded our nation and inflicted its pains and injuries on us.
Given the above scenario, I am reluctant to see a government encouraging its people to engage in overseas labour schemes as we have been hearing of. Certainly there would be a mass migration from rural villages coming to Honiara to pursue this opportunity and if the required unskilled- labour scheme in Australia and New Zealand is fully implemented we could certainly find ourselves in total mess of social chaos and displacement. I understand the importance of accessing rural people to money making opportunities in such schemes, but I'm alerted to the fear of the likelihood of our people being injected with the mentality that money could only be made and descent living could only be realised in foreign places such as Australia, New Zealand and in the city of Honiara. I suppose that arrangement would jeopardise and gradually replace the social memory we are engaged on, in reconstructing our nations new psychology towards active participation in rural economic development and desired- love for village life.
With the government strong policy towards improving rural capacity for development, I would rather think that such unskilled-labour work schemes in the Pacific region should be properly assessed so as to render a high amount of benefit to our people and not to divert their interest. Money has been the centre focus in such schemes but I would suggest that the government should use measures of protection to raise the point that our people should not be there in Australia and New Zealand just for money and apple picking but should be engaged in other schemes that would encourage our people to learn new skills so that they could use them in their rural villages when they actually return home. I suggest that this criteria should form part of some form of agreements or MOU between the regional employing bodies and the intending apple harvesters.
This is a crucial moment for Solomon Islands as we strive to stabilise our nation and regain its economic status. The government together with its people must divert from the colonial mentality that breed the consciousness of inferiority and incapacity. Money can be made by ourselves in rural villages with the government's support of financial schemes to enhance farmers, small business enterprises and private shipping services. Getting our people to engage in regional labour schemes should only be thought of as a supplementing policy to the rural development concept given the realization that our people would learn some new skills in Australia and New Zealand and upon return they would use them meaningfully to maximise benefits for themselves in the rural areas.
RECONSTRUCTING A NEW PSYCHOLOGY FOR RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of MISS LISA WATE and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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