Dear Provincial Members

As you debate on who should be the next Premier, I am writing an open letter on behalf of thousands of voiceless people in villages, islands, those travelling in canoes, gardening, and fishing that we want you to choose a good, trustworthy and responsible leader. There are also many civil servants and civil society in Gizo, Munda, Seghe, Shortlands and elsewhere in the Province whose livelihood and careers will be affected by your choice. Many of these people are voters but others are not.

The choice of a Premier will either impact positively or negatively on National Government, Embassies, NGOs and those people/institutions who provide technical supports, funds and expertise on our shores.

It is no secret that Western Province has been governed by various ‘Rogue Premiers’ in the past 10 years. Considerable damaged has been done. The roles and functions of the Premier’s Office and their Executives for that matter in handling of government affairs had been contentious, based on distribution of power, family influence and pattern of resource misallocation, leading to mismanagement of the wealth of people. This is shameful.

Setting aside your tribal, church and family affiliation, it is prudent to select a person who can work with everyone, has family value and integrity. A Premier being a leader should be one who can lead, direct, co-ordinate and inspire MPs to greater heights, meaning your decision of a Premier should also be a policy choice rather selecting a candidate merely based on affiliation.

In the past Western Province was privileged to be governed by many successful Presidents/Premiers who were accountable and transparent in all their activities. From the late 1970s, 1980 and to the 1990s the Province witnessed an unprecedented stable governments under the leadership of Jerry Buare (Shortlands), Francis Billy Hilly (Rannoga), Douglas Hiva (Kolobaranga) & Tausinga (N. New Georgia). Western Province developed its fisheries, timber, agriculture, cattle, mineral & mining, coconut/cocoa, shipping and tourism at such a pace that Western Province became the main provider of foreign exchange earner for the entire country. Its education, health, housing, social service, law and order advanced smoothly. Western Province became the most progressive Province in the country and enjoyed a stable political evolution and economic growth over the period of 30 years.

Common denominator to all these Presidents/Premiers is their style of Leadership, the roundedness of experience and their ability to connect with people and communities; in return they were accorded with trust and respect.

Secondly, their governments have clear objectives, policies, and development strategies and financing. They had plans for natural resources, commerce and industry, economic infrastructure, social infrastructure, administrative infrastructure and clear guideline for public expenditure.

Lastly, these Premiers demonstrated the following leadership traits and characteristics:

1) Serving a Higher Cause: They fought for something larger than themselves – they fought for the idea of a Province and nation and then set about making it happen. Besides setting high goals and working actively towards it, they also had to get the public to believe in it and work in that direction too.

2) Sincerity and Conviction: All these Premiers were men of conviction. They deeply believed in what they were doing and put their reputations and their political careers on the line. Anyone watching and listening to debates and meetings could feel the energy and sincerity of their beliefs reaching out across the arc of time. These were charismatic men, each in their own way, was fascinating to observe and to engage.

3) Courage – moral and political courage: They ran the danger of challenging the colonial authorities, National Government as well as the opposition groups. They did not flinch from their stand but pressed home their position with ever greater intensity and integrity.

4) Put into effect praxis: Praxis is the putting of ideas into action. The political and development achievements speak volume during the critical period of 70-1990s. Through strong leadership, Premiers showed clearly that they thought deeply about the role of the State and developed political principles to guide their policy action.

5) Focusing on the interests of the people: These pioneer politicians kept their focus on the interest of the people. The object of their political will and their policy energy was to improve the lot of the masses, to bring about opportunities to people and foster better livelihood; things extraneous to that focus were avoided.

Each MP should ponder on such questions as “What are the milestones which the Western Province has achieved which you are proud off?”, “What has the present premier achieved in terms of progress, development and growth?” And “What type of leadership, ensuring balance and harmony in Government, should you be supporting, to ensure achievement of overall goals for the wards and people you represent?” The burden of responsibilities is with you.

So MPs as you ponder on who you want to support as a Premier, remember, you are a custodian of a political power, it is expected that you to do what is right and proper for our Province, for our villages, our people and our children, and future generation rather than for self-gratification and interests of a few. We deserve better.

God Bless you all

Charlie Panakera
Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management
Waikato Management School
The University of Waikato / Private Bag 3105
Hamilton / New Zealand / Telephone + 64-7-838 4578 Directline