Solomons leaders have lost sight of people's needs - NGO
The chairperson of Transparency Solomon Islands says many politicians have lost sight of the people who vote for them, with the period immediately following elections described as being the critical period where this loss takes place.
The chairperson of Transparency Solomon Islands says many politicians have lost sight of the people who vote for them.
Ruth Liloqula says political reform is essential in Solomon Islands, but believes the Political Parties Integrity bill being considered by MPs needs to go further towards eradicating party-hopping.
She spoke to Johnny Blades.
RUTH LILOQULA: So the prime minister, the way I see it, is his entire focus is on maintaining numbers, [rather] than serving the country.
JOHNNY BLADES: What do you think it's going to take to change that, whereby after each election we don't have to see these groups being locked away in their hotel rooms, this game?
RL: [We] probably need to do something in the Political Parties Integrity bill where it sets up the parties, how they qualify as a party and what sort of assistance they have, how they should be administered and also how they remain. Because what we had was... There are those who stood on party lines, but a number of them, they don't stand as party lines, they're individuals. And for this group to be allowed to form a political party after the election, that I think is the main problem that we have. And they are the ones who can make or break governments, because you stand as an independent but then after the election all the independents come up together and then they, to me, mess up the whole system. If you can come up with a legislation, at least in the Political Parties Integrity bill, to say something like when you stand for an election you stand on party lines. If you decide to be no longer on party line then maybe you should lose your seat. You can stand as an independent member, but when you become independent you can not then come together and form a political party. I think that should be disallowed. Then I believe we can have stability. And the other thing is probably to look at means and ways of forming a government in the quickest possible way, that if a political party gets the largest number of candidates winning, then the governor general maybe should give them a limited number of times to phone the government. If they can't, they give it to the coalition of smaller groups to form the government. That way I think we can cut out, we can minimise the hold that the sponsors have on this political lobbying that happens in the time that we elect the prime minister.
JB: Who are these sponsors, generally, who are they? Can you say?
RL: Generally, they're businesspeople, Chinese nationals. It's logging and others, but mostly at the moment, I think it's common knowledge in Honiara that people say that the current government is supported by loggers. That period between that we lacked a prime minister, that is when they lost sight of the people who voted for them. To me, most recently, Transparency, we presented a petition to the government over the Constituency Development Fund, which is a slush fund, and its legislation. There was no policy support for that piece of legislation or bill, therefore it didn't go through the proper process for legislative bills. First you have to have a policy, then before you go into coming up with drafting instruction and then the bill, this one didn't go through that, and when I look at it, it's really legalising corrupt practises that we already see happening with this slush.
JB: Slush fund issues have been going on for so long.
RL: Yes, it's been going on for so long and legalising has brought to the forefront that the government budget, the public budget, approved budget, is at risk. At the moment the Cocoa Livelihoods Improvement Program allocation is going through the members of parliament and the Pacific Islands Oceanic Fisheries Management Project is going through the members of parliament. And what is there to stop them from taking funds from all the other provisions and putting services, social services, going down to the local villages or to the rural areas, the people are going to suffer. So that's the main concern. And if they can pass this one single bill without public participation and all of that, how many more bills to legalise those corrupt actions are they going to pass? I think that's the challenge for us in Solomon Islands. I think citizens must come up now to fight these kind of things.
JB: Is there any sign that government is becoming any more accountable to the people, just for basic services?
RL: I think, yes, they are there. It's not a lost cause where I'm coming from. We have legislation, good legislation, but it's a matter of compliance enforcement and all of that. So that did not come about because there was nobody there. We know about it. But if you look at me like I'm working, it's not just my family I'm feeding, I'm feeding a whole tribe because I'm the only one working. And if I lose my job a lot more people will lose. So one person working in the government or having a job anywhere, it's like you're a small unit of government providing those services that should be provided by the state to your wider extensive family and tribes. So nobody talks about it, and nobody would put their name on to it.
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