Access to funds expected to play big part in Solomon elections
A Solomon Islands academic expects the upcoming election will again be characterised by people voting for MPs who they think will give them access to development funds, rather than voting for them on issues of policy and law.
An academic says the prevailing political culture in Solomon Islands has taken the focus of elections away from issues of policy and law.
Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, from the University of Hawai'i's Center for Pacific Islands Studies, says parliamentary politics in Solomon Islands is increasingly preoccupied with Rural Constituency Development Funds, or RCDF.
Dr Kabutaulaka told Johnny Blades it's a pessimistic view but says he expects voting in the upcoming Solomons election to be about getting access to these funds.
TARCISIUS TARA KABUTAULAKA: The political culture associated with exchanges of money, huge amounts of money, not only between candidates or those selected but also between corporate entities and potential members of parliament, as well as between members of parliament and individuals as well. And to a certain extent, my feeling is that over the last, particularly the last twenty years I think, the nature of politics in Solomon Islands has been influenced a great deal by the rural development fund; there is a certain degree of people thinking that there are endless resources that the state has that they want to have access to, and the only way to have access to it is to vote in somebody who will have access to it and distribute it to them. So that's kind of corrupted the politics that we have, quite a bit.
JOHNNY BLADES: You're also meaning how the mentality of people in the constituencies expects it, expecting it in a certain way?
TTK: Yep and that's influenced our choices as well. That we choose people in the parliament not because they're going to be good legislators, not because they have brilliant ideas about the kinds of policies that we have. But we choose people mostly because we think they are going to distribute the RCDF to us. And so the idea of a member of parliament as a legislator, as a law-maker, is no longer important. Perhaps it was never important. But I think it's much less important now. And I think it's also influenced the kinds of discussions that take place in parliament. I had the privilege of reading the debates in the Solomon Islands parliament since 1978, looking at the old Hansard reports over time, and I've seen the nature of discussions change over time and particularly so in the last ten years when the RCDF became very, very important. There's a lot of preoccupation of parliament and discussions in parliament shifted away from issues of policy and issues of law to a great deal of discussion about distribution of the RCDF.
JB: You would hope, I suppose, that something could be changed whereby the politicians have less to do with the disbursal of these funds?
TTK: I would hope that they would get rid of the RCDF. Not the money itself. But find a much better way of channelling that money away from politicians so that we can get the politicians to focus on what they're supposed to be doing. But then, having said that, one must remember that politicians are the ones who have control over this thing and so asking them to get rid of it is very, very difficult.
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