I have been conflicted by the need for this motion at this hour in our history. On the one hand we are dealing with it today because there is need for a political solution to the causes of the tragic events of two weeks ago. On the other, I am conscious that what we say in ventilating this motion may further add to what are already high levels of anger in certain quarters of our society. Further, the fact that I am Malaitan may introduce or solicit prejudice to what ought to be a debate on the merits of the question before us.
As members will recall, as a result of the tragic events that caused so much loss and destruction and even cost lives, I called on the PM to resign his office. I did not make that call out of malice toward him personally. I made that call in recognition of the fact that the tragic events were not isolated events, nor were they purely criminal, but were the eruption of anger based on political issues and decisions for which the PM must bear the primary responsibility. Thus, though the police investigations must continue into the events, so must also be the search for a political solution. It is democratic for a Prime Minister to be called upon to resign, there is nothing undemocratic about the call. And if he chose to resign that too would be democratic. As is the case, the Prime Minister refused to resign, and therefore has necessitated this motion. The Prime Minister refusing to resign is also democratic, just as this motion is also democratic. I further called on MPs in government to resign, that call is democratic. Those that resigned, their actions are democratic. Those that chose not to resign, their decision is also democratic.
The vast majority of our people live on the margins of our economy. Although they are resource rich, yet they are cash poor. They have hopes that their children will have access to better opportunities than they did. They work hard to afford the high cost of education, though many children leave school because of lack of school fees. Our people are angry that education is so expensive, and that only those that can afford it are able to educate all their kids to a high level of education. They ask why this is the case. Isn’t the country rich in resources enough to fund education adequately that school fees is not an impediment to access to education? This is entirely a reasonable question for our people to ask.
When the kids come out of the education system, all parents and young people have no reasonable hope that they will secure jobs that pay a living wage. The grip of the extractive industries on the country’s natural resources policy has meant that the economy cannot be producing the jobs our young people so desperately need. The vast majority of our young people are unemployed. Our people are asking how long must this continue? How long does the PM need to implement serious reforms to ensure sustainable jobs are created out of the dwindling resources? Our people can see that the PM’s attitude is to allow our resources to be over-exploited with no interest to force the changes needed to create sustainable jobs. Our people are angry about this. Who is responsible?
The vast majority of our people live where access to healthcare is challenging at best. Basic medicines and supplies are often not adequate to meet their health care needs. The state of our hospitals are perpetually in crisis management. At the NRH ED patients sleep on the floor. Why is this the case? Who is responsible? Our people are angry about this.
Our people watch as spectators as all the prime land in and around Honiara is taken up by foreigners with better access to capital, whilst the government sits on its hands. Solomon Islanders are reduced to renters. Young Solomon Islanders will not be in a position to afford their own registered urban property. Who is responsible? Our young people are angry about this.
Our people hear about the millions of dollars paid for the repair of roads, but see the terrible state of our roads and wonder where the millions are going. Who is responsible? They are angry.
When logging companies disregard tribal and community concerns, and drive conflict and disputes within tribes and communities, and the government stands with the logging companies – this makes our people angry. When our people hear that the determined value of logs is set by the SFA, so that duty and royalties are understated – our people are angry. They ask how many years does it take to make the necessary reforms to safeguard our tribes, communities and their resources against foreign interests. When they see the PM have a close intimate relationship with the logging industry, our people are angry. When our people see the difference between the determined value of logs is much lower than the market price, they ask where the difference is going. We all are asking where the difference is going. When they see the logging industry finance the PM’s election and party and financially support to keep him in office – they ask why. Why is the PM so beholden to the logging industry? Our people are angry.
Our people are asking how long does government need to make these desperate reforms? Our people are asking how many times does the PM need to hold the office of PM to make these long overdue reforms? Well, the answer is clear – it doesn’t matter how many times he is PM, he will never make the changes until the resources have been squandered. Why not? Because he cannot bite the hand that feeds him. Our people are angry about this.
When our people see the PM run government on a business as usual approach to continues to sustain the exploitative economy, they are angry. You tell me, is the people’s anger reasonable or not?
When during the election the PM went to the national electorate under the Kandere party to deceive the people – the people say it may be legal under the defective PPI Act, but it is deceptive. They ask why the PM thought it okay to be so deceptive? This is a PM for whom deception is a legitimate strategy in his politics, policies, and decision making. Our people are angry that the governance of our country is run with and by deliberate deception. Our people are angry that they were not respected at the elections and presented with OUR party so they can express their will through votes on it.
All these things and more are the responsibility of the PM. He has been PM more than anyone else. And to whom much is given much is expected. The people are within their rights to expect a lot out of the PM. The PM can point to various Ministers and say they bear some responsibility, but the primary responsibility rests with the PM. The people of Solomon Islands expect so, and the constitution requires it. It is not good enough for the PM to merely be a spectator to the conduct of the affairs of the nation. But I do not believe the PM has been a spectator, he has been active, but the results of that activity is clear for all to see.
The use of the PRC NDF money to prop up the PM is another of those issues that is undermining and compromising the sovereignty of our country. The PM is dependent on that money to maintain his political strength. How is he then supposed to make decisions that are wholly only in the interests of Solomon Islands untainted or undiluted by considerations for the PRC funds. This is a PM who has willingly compromised our sovereignty for his personal political benefit. It does not matter to him what it is doing to our country.
The reforms needed to assure political stability have been proposed for a few years now. This PM has enjoyed three quarters support in the House, enough to make the constitutional amendments needed. Has he done them? Why not, dare I ask? Because it does not suit his politics. You see, when our people look at the way government is formed after an election, they see that that government does not reflect what they voted for during the general elections. Who in the last elections voted for OUR party? Should it concern us? Yes it should if we care about not deceiving the people of this country. Because after the elections, the loggers finance the PM to bribe MPs so he has the numbers to rule. Do you call that democracy? It is in this PM’s interest that the collective will of the people in the general election is disconnected to the government that is formed after the elections, so that it is easy to manipulate it with money from foreign loggers and interests. The people see their democratic process hijacked and are angry. Angry that their leaders are so fickle and unprincipled and will sell themselves for thirty pieces of silver. This of course suits an individual who will stop at nothing to grab power for the personal benefits that accrues with it. The proposals to fix these problems have been ready for a few years, but this PM has decided not to fix them. Is this the attitude of a responsible leader? No, they are that of an incalculating scheming person.
I am sure that members can add to this list of examples of the PM’s personal hunger for power and to remain in power and the effect it has had on our country. All these incite the people’s anger, that their government is not working for their best interests, but for the interests of foreign cronies.
You see public anger has been built up over many years by all this bad governance. No serious efforts have been taken to address these serious issues. Provincial governments have increasingly over the past several years repeated their desire that they be given the constitutional mandate to manage their own affairs. Honiara has been consuming almost all the wealth that has been generated from resources exploited from the provinces. Honiara has been controlling everything for everyone, including decision making. But the provinces have lost trust in Honiara. Erratic, poor, mercenary, and politically expedient decision making makes what is already a bad situation worse.
This is the situation specifically with Malaita. Malaita has stood on principle that a PM that lies to the country and parliament does not have moral authority and legitimacy. Malaita would not accept it. Because of that principled position, this PM has not ceased to scheme and plot the consistent and persistent persecution of Malaita. Malaitans have sought to petition the PM, twice, but were ignored and brushed aside in a rather juvenile manner. Malaita asked to stage peaceful protests, but these were denied. Malaitans sought an audience with the PM, but they were summarily dismissed. So what are they then supposed to do to get the PM’s attention? The PM consistently refused to visit Auki.
Over the last 18 months I have on a number of occasions called for the PM to embrace Malaita and enter into sincere dialogue and be prepared to agree to disagree on some issues. But no, the only dialogue this PM wants is where Malaita bows down to him. He made Malaita his personal ego project.
I contend this is the final straw in the public anger that has been building up over a while.
It is terrible that businesses were looted, and we must condemn it in the strongest terms. But it pales in comparison to the looting happening at the top, at the expense of ordinary Solomon Islanders. Because of the looting at the top, school fees are expensive. Because of the looting at the top NRH ED has patients lying on the floor. It is because of the looting at the top that roads are in such terrible state. The looting at the top perpetuates the massive transfer pricing in logging and mining presided over by this PM.
Malaita is the big brother in this family called Solomon Islands. Malaita has the capacity to stand up to this nonsense being perpetrated from Honiara. You may accuse Malaita of violence, but Malaita stands up for what they believe to be right. Unfortunately, there are consequences when Malaita stands up. The truth is, all the other provinces share Malaita’s anger towards and distrust of this PM. But only Malaita has been able to stand up to this PM.
The PM has blamed me and foreign forces for the violence that rocked Honiara. I reject these accusations. I have long worked for peace and reconciliation in this country. He has been part of a coup that brought him to power for the first time. We both have track records people can see. He only needs look in the mirror and self-reflect, as we all must as well. He needs to pray for Christ’s humility to clothe him, and accept the grace to be corrected.
By treating Malaita, the big brother in this family with such contempt, the PM has demonstrated childish callous arrogance. In his persistent and consistent persecution of Malaita, the PM betrayed his anti-Malaita attitude. And in this persecution, he has betrayed that he is in the service of a foreign power, not in the interests of Solomon Islands. No PM should be anti any province, let alone the big brother in the family. Are these the actions and attitudes of a responsible PM?
Members will need to apportion weight to these things in their consideration of this motion. Yes, we all carry prejudices and it is human to be defensive, but we must do our best to rise above all that and consider with some level of objectivity the merits of this matter.
I therefore beg to move that Parliament resolves it does not have confidence in the Prime Minister.