Contrary to what my dear Honorable friend opposite may think, it does not give me any pleasure this morning to be the one to move that the House resolve it has no confidence in the Prime Minister.
The events of two weeks ago, and the ongoing tensions that remain, and its reflection on governance in our country require that there is a political solution to the underlying issues that are the source of much anger in some quarters of our society. There must be accountability. Yes the recent events were marked by criminality and opportunism, but we must not be blinded by that and gloss over the underlying issues that require a political solution.
Because of social media and rumors circulating at the time, the House Committee requested and on Monday the 22nd October 2021, received a security briefing from the police. At the briefing, the police informed the Committee that the risk assessment of protest related threats was set at low. During the meeting there was some discussion around rules of admission into the parliamentary precincts. From the low risk assessment, the Committee decided that normal rules of admission be maintained but that if it changed that the police would liaise directly with the Clerk and Speaker to accommodate any responses that would be appropriate, as determined by the police. As it turned out, obviously the risk assessment was wrong. It appears there was a serious failure of intelligence.
During the 24th Oct sitting, given the police briefing of the 22nd Oct, we were not anticipating that anything out of hand would occur, certainly not something beyond the capacity of the police to manage. Rumor always abound about public protests, and often remained just that, and there was therefore no grounds for alarm. This was a tragic lull.
In the week prior, all Malaita MPs were invited to an intra-Malaita reconciliation. Four Malaita MPs plus the MP for Central Honiara attended the two day reconciliation. It is regrettable that not all Malaita MPs attended. The events focused solely on reconciliation and on the province dealing with issues, hurts, wounds and scars going back almost 100 years. Very difficult issues were dealt with, without the expensive compensation that usually accompanied such events. Deep old wounds were healed. There was a spirit of reconciliation, unity, and hope that came out of the reconciliation events. Although we were aware of the tense relationship between the central government and Malaita, at no time, during those events was there any talk about politics, the focus was simply on resolving Malaita issues. All of these events and speeches were live streamed, I am told, so everything said is in the public domain. We returned from the events buoyed with confidence that Malaita is moving together in the same direction toward goals they have set for themselves. In the meantime, the PM authorized his officers to make inciteful statements against and about the Malaita reconciliation events, for no useful reason other than to demonstrate his paranoia and arrogance.
I am aware that rumor was ripe that I chartered a ship or perhaps several ships to bring Malaitans to Honiara after the reconciliation. There is simply no truth to any of these accusations. The Prime Minister accused me in the media of inciting Malaitans to come to Honiara. Again, this is a fact-free accusation. I am aware that there are even rumors that I planned the protests and violence as a power grab. Again, these are yet more fact-free accusations. At no time did I or any MP in the Opposition participate in any planning or incitement of Malaitans to do anything. These accusations are the PM’s way of diverting attention away from the cause of the discontent and anger that led to the recent tragic events.
To understand why Malaitans have acted the way they did over the recent weeks, we should look no further than their own pleas to be heard by the Prime Minister. They petitioned the Prime Minister in writing, and a whole month had elapsed before he denied having received the petition, although it was delivered directly to his EPS, I’m told. It was a deceptive delay tactic employed as his style of dealing with Malaita. I received a copy of that petition the same day it was delivered to the PM. A second version of the petition was then issued to the Prime Minister, who casually hands it off to his SSPM who announced that the legitimate body to deal with these matters is the Malaita Provincial government. Several requests were made for permits for peaceful protest marches. These requests met with the same deceptive games designed simply to stop any protests and not address the need for dialogue over the issues raised. Unfortunately, the police were dragged into the PM’s deceptive schemes in this matter. At the time, I called on the PM and Commissioner of Police to allow peaceful protest so people can ventilate their issues and receive acknowledgement from the PM. But the response to that call was sheer arrogance and a blunt no.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister has been scheming the removal of the Premier of Malaita and his MARA government. The Prime Minister personally made promises of millions of dollars to MPAs if they succeeded at removing Premier Suidani and his government. One wonders where such millions would come from. During meetings at the PMO, and in Marau, and again in Kirakira during second appointed day events, the PM continued this lobbying of Malaita MPAs. Of course none of these activities could be hidden for long, because the same MPAs revealed all that the PM promised to them as individual rewards for removing the Premier and MARA government. The crowd size that welcomed Premier Suidani when he returned to Auki, followed by the events of the day of the motion to remove him, are testament to the strong will of the Malaita people that no one, not even a PM, can impose his schemes against Malaitan interests, even with large sums of foreign money. This is how politics should be – that money cannot buy governance decision making. For someone who is used to getting his way, it irritates the PM that Malaita cannot be bribed to remove Premier Suidani. The MPAs may be bribable, but the Malaita people refuse to bow down for bribes. Malaitans refuse to worship at that alter.
Malaitans sent the first petition, which was likely thrown in the rubbish bin. Malaitans sent a second petition, which was casually dismissed, and were told that the central government would deal with the provincial government on the petition. This was insincerity writ large. The truth is, there was never any intention on the part of the PM to deal with the provincial government at all. How can he deal with the provincial government, when he has consistently been plotting the downfall of its Premier? How can he deal with the provincial government without a single visit to Auki? Malaita Premier’s appointment of ministers could never be facilitated by the government. There was always a legal problem of sorts manufactured to delay such appointments. These delays were all part of the scheme to cause frustration and reduce the numbers of MPAs supporting the Malaita Premier.
Minister of Aviation announced on SIBC TV Sunday 11th July that he was taking a paper to cabinet to divert SIRAP project funding from Malaita. This was followed up with very inciteful media releases by government communications unit and the PS for Aviation and the PS for MID. This was simply more wood added to the fire under Malaita. The PM’s press office and statements which were approved by the PM himself issued highly inciteful statements against the Malaita Premier and his government. I do not understand what such juvenile statements were supposed to achieve, only that they were intended to increase the heat under Malaita so they remove their Premier.
The Prime Minister, personally, during the two second appointed day events at Marau and Kirakira, told the Malaita MPAs while he was lobbying against Premier Suidani, that the SCALE program on Malaita will never achieve its objectives because he will make sure that US government personnel are not given the visas to come to Solomon Islands. Of course, we know US government personnel and their contractors have found it difficult to come to Solomon Islands, as compared with other diplomatic partners. This is more wood to the fire. And the PM’s recent accusation that foreign powers are behind these recent events points the finger at the US. In that the PM betrayed his attitude that he did not want the SCALE program to succeed in Malaita.
The Prime Minister has been persistent and consistent in his persecution of Malaita. The Prime Minister’s relationship with Malaita has been marked by lighting a large fire under Malaita, and persistently adding more wood to it.
I have made several calls in parliament and in the media for the Prime Minister to embrace Malaita and its Premier and sincerely seek a working relationship. Those calls were ignored. In fact, the PM’s response in the House was that it was only a minority and that Malaita is hitting its head against a brick wall. Is that the response of a responsible leader? But now it is clear why the PM was not interested in embracing Malaita – he was busy scheming against it.
You can poke a bear in the eye once and may be get away with it. But consistent persistent poking will surely wake the bear up. And what for? Are you prepared for when the bear wakes up? What benefits come from aggressive, persistent and consistent persecution of Malaita? This was simply bad leadership. The PM said he had no issues with Malaita. Ya right! We believe you. If you do not have issues with Malaita, why have you been avoiding Malaita? If you do not have issues with Malaita, on Wed 24th Oct why did you run away from them, when they simply wanted an audience with you. Your escape turned what could have been a feisty but peaceful protest into anger and violence. The violence was a direct result of the anger of being treated with contempt by the PM.
At the worst of times during those three days, where was the PM? Who was leading government? A responsible leader can be counted on to stand up in the most difficult of times and offer leadership, not run away and hide. Ministers complained they did not know what was happening and who was in charge.
The PM has said in the media that these events were due to the decision to switch from Taipei to Beijing. But I beg to differ, these events are the direct result of the PM’s deceptive leadership. It was his deception that made the switch in diplomatic recognition such a big issue. You can keep deceiving a few MPs to keep following you, but you can’t keep deceiving the nation. PRC is not the issue, PM’s deception is. He made multiple statements in Parliament that the government would consult as widely as possible and hear everyone’s views on the question of whether to switch recognition. He would “leave no stones unturned”, he promised. He would consult Premiers, provincial governments, constituencies etc. Did he? NO, he did not. It was a con. He never had the intention to consult on the question. Of course, we know that such a decision rests with Cabinet. No one disputes that. But the PM did not need to promise wide national consultations when clearly he did not have the intention of doing so. On such an important decision, when you promise to consult widely, people will hold you to that promise. On the other hand, insincere promises will come back to bite you. His insincerity is the root of this problem.
All this deception is premised on his paranoia to keep his grip on power. That is always the bottom line for the PM. He will let everything be destroyed as long as he is holding on to power. In the end, he became part of the bandwagon that voted for the switch – not because he believed it was the right thing, but because that’s where the numbers have shifted to. Clearly, the PM’s decision making is not guided by right or wrong, but whether it strengthens his hold on power. That is always his bottom line. You may be close to him now, but he will sell you out if it means maintaining his hold on power. Deception is the key attribute of his political success. Is this how we want this country to be governed?
I am reliably informed that the culture in political executive government is toxic. Ministers and backbenchers do not have the freedom to see the PM and raise issues directly with him. There is always suspicion on who MPs talk to. It is a toxic and juvenile culture. MPs are not able to discuss and debate issues freely because that may offend the pre-determined positions of the PM peddled by his cronies around him. Because of this paranoia and toxic culture, the PM has employed similarly paranoid people to feed his paranoia. Paranoia feeding paranoia. How can you run a government with paranoia? Look at the people closest to the PM. Who are they? What are their characters like? Think about it. Are these the sort of people that should be running a government? They feed an already paranoid PM with more fodder to make him eternally suspicious of everyone and everything.
Because of this paranoia, there is a small core group within political government made up of a few MPs and officials. Do you think caucus and cabinet make the decisions? No. Decisions are made by this small group. Then cabinet is massaged to accept those decisions. All ministers complain of this. But this is always a characteristic of how this PM runs government. This is not new. He will never take disciplinary action against this close knit group because they are all in it together. They need each other and know too much about each other. What that small core group agree is given more significance by the PM than views of MPs in government.
You know when government is feeling politically insecure, each MP in government is given a daily allowance of $5k. Where do you think that came from? Do not be deceived. It is the work of this small group to get that money from foreign sources in the PM’s name. Is this clean money? Far from it. It is the dirtiest of dirty money. But as long as it helps him keep his grip on power this PM loves it. And MPs get 5k each, but the rest who knows where it ends up. You see, he treats MPs like chicks that are fed grated coconut. Why do you think one minister is the one that gives pocket money to MPs. He does not own a business with significant cash flow to sustain such an enterprise. Where do you think he gets that money from? Do not be deceived. He is selling the country for that allowance.
The PM has boasted to so many people over the years, and repeated it to the Makira executive at their recent second appointed day that he has conversations with the ghost of the late Mamaloni. You all have heard this from him. He more than once told me himself. What kind of a person has conversations with a ghost? He was once told a few of us that he flew with a vele on a banana leaf up to Mount Tatuve for a meeting. You think it’s funny? Is such a person fit to be PM? His conversations with ghosts feeds his paranoia. So you know his decision making is the result of ghost advice.
He has spent public funds on treasure hunting for gold bars around Ontong Java. He funded the gold hunting on Tulagi. He wanted to send an envoy to Switzerland in 2015 to talk to a ‘nation’ group who wanted to donate billions of US dollars to Solomon Islands, their only interest being good governance. Who would do that without strings attached. It was too good to be true, because it simply was. This is a PM who is naturally inclined towards get rich quick schemes to solve the country’s problems and this has clouded his judgment. And in that it betrays his lack of sound balanced judgment. This was why he instructed the Finance Minister to pursue the USD100 Bn loan from private sources in China. Too good to be true? Because it is. But how can a PM direct that? Because he lacks sound judgment. The matter did not progress only because there was public outcry against it.
It was this paranoia that led his opposition to RAMSI coming in 2003. His argument then was sovereignty. Because back then he perceived RAMSI as against him. He feared they would investigate his involvement in the coup. He accused RAMSI of stealing black boxes of gold from Tulagi and the Iron Bottom Sound. Of course none of it was true, but this paranoid PM lives in a fact-free world. Because of this paranoia, he is more inclined to believe and peddle lies than truth. He sees truth as defensive against his natural inclination toward lies. How can you run government with such a disposition? He deported the then Australian High Commissioner on trumped up accusations. Sovereignty is only sovereignty when it suits his personal paranoia to hold on to power. He has invited Australia, PNG and Fiji to come in and support the RSIPF now. The same Australia he accused of violating our sovereignty in 2003 when they helped to restore order. Everything just so he can keep his grip on power. Right to him is defined by whether it will keep his grip on power.
He set himself up as the champion of sovereignty, whilst accepting foreign advice and financing of his political ambitions. Look at the genesis of the various parties he has founded, look at who the promoters were and are, and look at who the financiers are – they are all foreign interests. Is this the mark of a champion of national sovereignty? Do not be blind. This PM is a very successful politician who has managed to attach himself to foreign business interests that are raping our country. He has ingratiated himself to them. He has deliberately cultivated a relationship with them, and that they feel only he can protect their interests. And he has been protecting their interests. This is why we will never see serious reform in logging and mining. How many times over the last many years have I raised this in Parliament. He would ‘take note’ of the concerns, but of course never did anything serious about them. He’s been eating out of their hands, he cannot bite. He needs them. He has sold out the sovereignty of this country. He has sold out the national interests of Solomon Islands to these foreign interests.
You know Malaitans feared that their provincial government when it faced attempts to remove it, was facing forces outside Malaita not in the interests of Malaita. Clearly, Malaitans saw that those outside forces were stronger than their provincial government and therefore the Malaita people had to themselves stand with their provincial government to confront the outside forces. Their MPAs were offered bribes and received promises of much much more to follow – not for Malaita, but themselves personally. All these attempts were from the PM, financed by his foreign cronies. Malaitans stood up to that nonsense and protected their government. Malaitans did not want to entertain state capture of their provincial government.
Political sovereignty is in the people, only exercised on their behalf by their governments. If their governments abuse that sovereignty, it is within their rights for the people to protect it. Likewise, democracy is based in the people. When democratic processes are paralyzed by the numbers game, when the numbers are held together by foreign money – that is no longer democracy, that is state capture. And the people have a right to protect their democracy. Democracy must be able to resolve issues that concern the people, and not be paralyzed against the people. When people demand serious reforms in forestry – it never happens. Why? Because this PM will not allow that to happen. Why because he is beholden to foreign loggers. Why? Because they finance him. The same can be said for the lack of reforms in mining. This is his 4th time as PM, is it still not enough time to do the serious reforms in forestry and mining that would secure the rights and interests of indigenous Solomon Islanders and their government? Why do you think the PM personally interfered to block the tax investigation into one of his long time logging cronies and financiers? Not because he is a good Christian.
Why do you think the determined value of logs does not change up or down unless the SFA, the logging companies tell the PM how much to change it? Are we blind?
This is the state capture that the people of this country are sick and tired of. They have, yet again, lost their trust in the democratic process to work for their interests. They see foreign interests controlling their government, and a few elites and those foreigners become very rich out of it. And the indigenous people get poorer and poorer. There is land disputes, tribes and communities are divided. All so that the few at the top can benefit. That is what this PM has presided over in all his years as PM. And now he wants to extend this parliament by another year, so they can have an extra year to rape this country.
You think the people of this country will stand aside and allow you to continue unhindered? They want to see you and dialogue with you on all these matters. It’s this state capture that is pushing the provinces to seek greater autonomy over their governance to avoid this rot at the center.
A week before the riots, the PM paid from the PRC NDF 1m to the member for Gizo Kolobangara, and 1m to the Member for East Guadalcanal. It is now clear that those monies were for bribing former militants to fight the protesters. It therefore appears the PM knew all along about the protests, and his response was not to listen to them and offer some hope forward. No, his response was to get PRC money to divide and rule, to sow more division. Is this the action of a responsible leader? This looks more like what you see in Belarus and Venezuela. Using foreign money to sow division and discord.
We must not condone the criminal violence and destruction that caused so much loss. But on the other hand, nor should we casually write it off as mere criminality. The criminal activity was the result of a string of events that were the direct result of decision making by the PM. Do not be deaf, do not be numb, do not be insensitive to the anger out there. The people are angry. They are angry with the PM. Since the arrival of the foreign forces, the PM has come out swinging fact free accusations wildly at everyone else but himself. He has not learnt his lessons. This is the time for sensitivity and a sincere desire for dialogue. But no, with foreign forces protecting him, he is acting as he has always – arrogant. You think you will appease the public anger by the presence of foreign forces? What will they do? Shoot our people? What happens when the foreign forces leave? Will you continue to hide from our people? Malaita will keep coming to you PM. What will you do? Would Malaita accept such as sincere? The PM’s ego has been bruised, and he’s a hurt tiger looking for someone to devour. This is not the time for that. It is simply bad leadership.
The PM shouted at me in this House to tell my people to stop doing various things that threaten his political position. They are your people too. You are their PM, are you not? Or are you simply the PM of foreign logging and other interests? People have a right to visit their MPs. Of course we do not condone criminal threats or intimidation, but people cannot be barred from seeing their leaders.
I welcome the PM’s threats of police investigation. I have nothing to hide. My Malaitan forbears who formed and led the struggle for self-government in the Ma’asina Ruru movement were also arrested charged and imprisoned for having the strong desire to have self respect. If my standing and speaking for Malaita interests will lead to my being charged, I am prepared to face it. The interests that Malaita stand for are the same for all provinces of Solomon Islands. I tell you, all of Malaita are watching closely how this PM treats Malaita and its leaders from hereon. We are not cowards from Malaita. We will not run and hide. But Malaita prefers a sincere dialogue. The sincerity of that dialogue will require time to invest in it. This PM has lost Malaita’s trust and the insincerity in his dealings with Malaita will always undermine any dialogue. We are in a serious situation, and members must not underestimate the gravity of this situation, and all because of the PM.
I know some have said, ‘oh well just let Malaita get its independence, they’re always causing trouble for the rest of us’. That is lazy thinking fueled by bad leadership and poor governance. Malaita wants to remain part of Solomon Islands, and I hope that the rest of Solomon Islands would like Malaita to remain in Solomon Islands. But serious changes need to happen. And those changes must start with removing arrogance and insincerity from the leadership of the government and removing the strangle hold of foreign interests that is the core of the state capture – and it must start with removing this PM. We must not allow the unity of our country to be threatened just for one man’s arrogance and ego. It is far better to let go of that one man and work tirelessly at strengthening unity.
I know this is not an easy decision for some members to make. The status quo is quite often more preferrable than change that comes with uncertainty. Some members may fear losing out on perks, position, and prestige. But alas, this decision should not be about those things. Some members may fear that they have benefited a lot from this PM from public fund allocations. Again, this decision is not about that. Some members may fear not receiving benefits that are outside legal and ethical bounds. That fear must not deter members from the change required. It is time to demonstrate ambition for better governance and right governance. This is the time to draw a line in the sand, and move forward.
Some members will righty insist that we must not make such a decision under the duress of the tragic events. This is an important principle. However, that principle must be held in balance with another equally important principle. The tragic events in themselves also bore an important message – that the people’s demand for change and the responses to that demand has led to a very high level of anger. Unfortunately, the recent violence overwhelmed and perhaps disguised the people’s demand for better leadership. Responsive leadership is an important characteristic of a democracy, and therefore leaders must listen to that anger and look beyond it, and respond in the most responsible and constructive manner. Members must not decide this matter in anger at the violence and as revenge. It is natural to not oblige what is being forced upon you, so you deliberately do the opposite, just to make the point. However, responsive leadership is responsible leadership and is an important principle in democracy. That response must begin with removing this PM. It is not the entire answer to the issues before this country, but it is an important beginning. He has been PM for around 11 of the last 20 years, it is blind to expect he will champion the tough changes that our people have been demanding. These are not new demands. And in that 11 years, this PM has presided over the state capture that has choked our democracy. This state capture is why the tough changes will never be made. As long as he remains PM, state capture will remain alive and well and will continue to choke our democracy, government and economy.
If the status quo is maintained, our people will look upon this House with utter disgust. Our people would be asking, ‘what do they have to do to make their leaders pay attention, listen and change?’ If the status quo remains, it will be clear evidence that parliament has not learnt the lessons of our history. If the status quo is maintained, our people will want to know what is so good about this PM that removing him from office is detrimental to the country. If the status quo is maintained, it may lead to more strife, and disunity. Surely, members want to see our country move beyond this point. That the old baggage that is the anger can be left behind as we move forward. But if the status quo remains, the anger will remain. We are at a cross roads, and are looking for a circuit breaker.
In 2006, the PM resigned as a Minister in the Rini government to become PM. He said he did that to save the country from the violence. Resigning to move up is obviously democratic. Resigning to move down is undemocratic. It clearly is not about democracy or saving this country, it is about himself.
We are here today, because the PM refused to resign and pinned his chances to the floor of parliament. He prefers to size up the numbers on the floor of this House. Because he is confident that foreign money will ensure that he retains the numbers to beat the motion. It would be a tragedy of immense proportions if members allow the promise of 250k from the PRC NDF determine their votes, when clearly there are very significant national interest issues that ought to. I encourage members to rise above our petty personal differences, consider the evidence before you, allocating proportionate weight to each, and far above all see that a stronger, united, fair, just and prosperous Solomon Islands cannot be built on deception, insincerity, corruption, paranoia, state capture and foreign interests. This PM must go.
I therefore move that Parliament resolves it has no confidence in the Prime Minister.