Campaigning intensifies ahead of Solomons elections
Election fever grips Solomon Islands a week out from the elections.
There has been a spike in the number of police checks and campaign promises on the streets of Honiara, as Solomon Islands prepares for elections on Wednesday next week.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force will be in election mode from Wednesday as it will be joined by 90 additional police officers, mostly from Australia and New Zealand.
Our correspondent, Dorothy Wickham, spoke with Koroi Hawkins about the mood in the capital.
DOROTHY WICKHAM: Honiara is full of campaigning candidates in every suburb every night you have one candidate on a public speaker phone talking about their policies, their ideas. And the community, I think there seems to be less excitement about it, I think, I think there's a little bit more caution amongst Solomon Islanders this time round I met a couple of people who said they didn't register this year because they said they felt there was nothing worth registering for, so it's that kind of mixed mood that we have at the moment.
KOROI HAWKINS: And there's this party system that's come in and that's supposed to make things more stable, how is that new legislation featuring in this year's election?
DW: I know there is a group of, sort of a section of Solomon Islanders who are wanting to hear party policy before they listen to the candidates. But then you have that other section that doesn't really care, they are more interested in the individual candidate instead of the party, so you've got a bit of a mixed group. But I think policy will count a little bit more this time I think because over the last four years, Solomon Islanders not being too happy with what's being happening in the economy and in terms of development so I think you will have a lot more Solomon Islanders questioning policy not so much, personality.
KH: How has the security situation been in terms of policing and the way people are behaving ahead of the elections?
DW: Well we've had road checks at night for the last few weeks, this is two or three times a night, police just appearing at sudden sections of the road and checking for drink driving and disorderly behaviour, so it's sort of subdued a little, not only the election fever but also the Christmas feeling we normally have in Honiara and everybody goes on a, holiday mood you know, things here can get out of hand just from a small incident - it can spark something off.
KH: And do you think the police are prepared? I understand 90 RAMSI, PPF, participating police officers are being flown in, do they have the capacity to police these elections?
DW: I don't think police have the capability of looking after Honiara properly if they, they spread their numbers out from here to Malaita or even into the West because we know that our Prime Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo, is going to stand in that, that end of the country, of course we might expect some problems there if, if there's anything that's going to happen it's going to be at that end and Malaita and here. So if they start distributing this group you're referring to then they are going to have a problem. But if they keep the core team in town, control what's happening and town and only fly them into a place when they need to, then I think they, they'll be able to contain it. But you seen what happens with riots here in Honiara, it's a difficult town to contain. We've got too many back roads, too many settlements in the back. When rioters start running into the hills, the police can't control that, that part of it.
KH: And is there a sense that their will be any of that?
DW: I think we'll have a peaceful voting day, usually we only start having problems when the counting start you know, not being happy with how it's being counted or what are the results of the counts, that's when the trouble usually starts and then of course when the election of Prime Minister is announced or forming of government as you know, we have always been described as unpredictive so it's very hard to predict with our people, sometimes you think they are happy and suddenly something happens and then it just goes out of scale. It also depends on the candidate, people who are contesting elections, if they are talking the right language they're coming in with the right attitude, then that, that spirit will pass on to the voters. But if you've got candidates who are taking it personal, encouraging violence, then we'll have a problem.
KH: Finally to wrap it all up, what are some of the issues, what are some of the policies that are being heard in terms of the new MPs that are coming in and what kind of government, might have after these elections?
DW: There's a lot of talk of reforming the CDRF [Rural Constituency Development Fund], managing CDRF, constituency money, a lot of them are talking about that. A lot of the new ones are saying, this needs change, it's because of that, that we are having problems, in terms of corruption distribution of wealth, development infrastructure into the provinces. Because the money that should be used, isn't being used for that, it's being used for personal gain personal motive. So that seems to be the underlying subject of campaign at the moment, it just reflects on what Solomon Islanders, some are saying we don't feel the effects of government assistance. Most of what we get we build our own homes, slowly we've, sold betel nut and bought a car. And it's that sentiment that I think a lot of the new candidates are riding on and using that as to gain votes from those who are not satisfied with the Lilo Government.
KH: And yet election after election the voters are voting people into government that, that are, seem to be doing these sort of things, so is there are change to the kind of village politics or the kind of you pay me now I will vote for you kind of mentality?
DW: I don't think there's a big shift, I mean somebody said to me, it's funny he said, 'they say it but when they go to the ballot box it's different', like we've said in the past, economic realities for each and every single Solomon Islander, their economic reality is where they throw their vote. If the member of parliament is helping them with school fees or it's something to do with their own personal lives that affects their pocket, their household, they will vote for him.
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