Please allow me space to contribute my views on the above issue. First of all before I elaborate further I would like to state that as we know, in politics, development and government there are no quick-fixes. Short term actions aimed at addressing problems are often short-sighted and would impact only on the periphery of problems. Hence it is always wise to formulate mid- or long-term actions in follow-up to short term solutions to problems, so that prevailing problems are addressed in conformity to societal development. Secondly, there are no 'one size fits all' solutions to political issues and problems. All situations are unique and different and a particular practice that may work in one place or system may not work at another. Thirdly, given the two factors, I believe totally relying on 'text-book' solutions to address prevailing issues is dangerous and misleading. The grass on the field is in fact much taller than it is anticipated from the air. Hence, pragmatic and home-grown solutions drawing from "what has worked and what has not" is the best problem solving approach.
For now the issue at hand is 'Leadership in Solomon Islands' and it is indeed sad to how complicated things are for us back at home. Many people have argued that RCDF is the prime cause of all these corruption and lack of development and they have their arguments to justify that. In some countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, they also constituency development funds and surprisingly they are also expressing similar development complaints like us. So sad, isn't it? The availability of fund has made people to treat their MPs as delivery outlets, replacing the role of government. MPs are not the government, but are law makers. They are elected by us to be our democratic voice in the chamber of parliament, to represent us in international issues and to make laws for peace and good governance of Solomon Islands.
The intention of RCDF when approved by parliament was genuine. And in constituencies where the RCDF has been used properly by their MPs, people have really benefitted as the money has been properly used to initiate viable development. The problems related to RCDF are only prevalent in constituencies where MPs are not honest and transparent in their use of the fund. So the question to critique is whether RCDF is the real problem or is the problem more of a human kind? Indeed many would argue that it is the money that tempts the human to be corrupt. But if the RCDF is removed, will corruption end and will development occur as expected? Well we may never know until that is done. It may or it may not but I personally believe that not much change will occur and people will still suffer. The politicians will still look for other means of misusing public funds, if not through corrupt ways then through legal channels such as the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission. Hence, I am of the view that instead of removing RCDF there are avenues that should be addressed- such as in relations to the administration of the fund, its increased monitoring and scrutiny etc- before we resort to that last option of weeding it out.
RCDF in Solomon Islands has also affected voter behaviour and as mentioned intensified pressure on MPs. And as some have argued it has created greater dependency on MPs for money, service delivery and so forth. I do sympathise with MPs at times when they are being harassed by their voters for money, knowing that RCDF is there. On the outset, while the usual cause of such pressure is due to ignorance on the part of the voters, more often it is due to the MPs themselves not living up to their promises made during campaign times. However, personally I believe the main problem here is very much related to the low adult literacy rate in Solomon Islands and our deep rooted traditional notions of leadership. In many our societies, we have chiefly and big-man system of traditional leader where leader are expected to redistribute their wealth to the people at certain times. In the contemporary Solomon Islands that time has become the time when RCDF is due to be released to MPs.
In spite of that, I still believe that abolishing RCDF will only serve as a short-term measure to lowering expectations of Members. It may stop leader dependency in the short term; but I think the socio-economic situation of our society is one that dependency of our leaders is one thing that will for sure remain for some time. Wantokism is our social safety net and our leaders are perceived as providers to that safety-net. If they fail, they are sure to be voted out in the next election. And even without RCDF aspiring politicians will still make promises and people will still expect returns from them.
The most tricky question to ask ourselves is this? In practical sense, with the current pool of politicians, how the RCDF be removed? For it to be removed requires it to be passed by parliament. But how can you expect the MPs themselves to vote for RCDF to be removed from their use and benefit? I think to themselves it will be an ask too big to accept. Even the thought of making being a Member of Parliament unattractive will only create a situation more susceptive to corruption. A person who lowly paid with is more likely to steal and be corrupt than a person who is not.
The long-term solution therefore is to encourage our children to go to school, and make education compulsory. The trickle-down effects of education and having an educated society will sure create a more socially, economically and politically proactive society that would produce good leaders, visionary politicians and government, and bright future for all of us
Leadership in Solomon Islands
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Derick Manu'ari and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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