Extract from my memoirs.
The successful hosting of the Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival in mid-1998 was a boost for the SIAC government, despite the severe financial limitations at the time.
However, on the political front, intelligence indicated that ousted politicians from the former government, including, it was alleged, Solomon Mamaloni, were hard at work trying to unseat the Ulufa’ala administration.
Several motions of no-confidence in the government were tabled in the National Parliament in quick succession and on the final attempt, in September 1998, the government just managed to survive with a tiny one vote majority.
Having failed to remove the government through constitutional means, Special Branch sources revealed that the Opposition would work to exploit the so-called ‘Bona Fide’ demands of the Guadalcanal Province as a means of putting added pressure on the SIAC coalition government.
These ‘Bona Fide’ demands, at least most of them, were not new demands, because barely a few months after the Solomons gained independence, the Guadalcanal Province had presented similar demands to the then national government.
In 1988 the original demands were again lodged and received by Ezekiel Alabua who was then the Prime Minister.
A taskforce was established by SIAC in 1998 when Alebua, now the Premier of Guadalcanal Province, lodged his demands.
The Chairman of the taskforce, SIAC’s Minister for Mines and Energy, Walton Naezon, reported that no records could be found to indicate how the original demands had been addressed, but he did confirm that three main issues, since 1978, had been the concerns of the people of Guadalcanal:
• The return of alienated land:
This land was claimed to be rightfully owned by the people of Guadalcanal. These land issues could be traced back to colonial, historical, efforts to dispossess traditional landowners of their native land on which Solomon Islanders relied for status, wealth and their livelihood.
• Compensation payments for killings on Guadalcanal:
These claims for compensation related to allegations that there had been 25 people from Guadalcanal murdered since Independence in 1978
• State Government claim:
The call for State Government had arisen as a consequence of the establishment of the national capital in Honiara after the original capital at Tulagi in the Central Province was abandoned at the end of World War II.
The people of Guadalcanal objected to the large scale migration of settlers from other provinces, particularly from Malaita, to Honiara and there was also the demand that the Guadalcanal people should benefit equitably from the income that they contributed to the state.
It had been speculated, without adequate information, as to why the repeated demands of the Guadalcanal province had not been previously addressed by successive governments before Alebua re-lodged them again in 1998.
The general consensus was that Alebua had earlier claimed that has he was not able to deal with the demands ten years before, in 1988, because he was then the Prime Minister and not a Guadalcanal Minister and had wider national concerns to consider.
Also, it was considered that previous governments had found the issues too difficult to solve and it was also likely they had not been subject to the same political pressures now being engineered by power thirsty politicians following SIAC’s victory at the polls.
The information that I had been given by the Special Branch accords with the fact that the so-called ‘Bona-Fide’ demands were again raised to pressure the SIAC government following the failure of a succession of motions of no-confidence in parliament which had been originated to topple the Uluf’ala led administration, as claimed earlier in this chapter.
My own reasoning was that the threat to the government was symptomatic of development policies that had gone wrong over the years. Albeit, whatever the truth of the situation, I was convinced the demands were then being driven by opportunist politicians hungry for power.
To be continued……
Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 28: Our Prevailing Political Scene - Disruptive Undercurrents.
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