POLITICAL COMMENTARY: ‘2006 riot is a wake up call’ - Solomon Star News

POLITICAL COMMENTARY: ‘2006 riot is a wake up call’

31 March 2014

Solomon Islanders are anticipating for going into the pools for national election in December.  Interestingly the political climate now is MP’s and intending candidates, joined the political race and campaigning is in top gear, in the streets of Honiara, provincial centres, rural areas even to their door steps.

Particularly past experiences should ring a bell, to relevant government institutions to ensure history must not repeat itself after this upcoming national election.

It is undeniable truth that public perception was Asian business houses and individuals assist politicians with hefty amounts of money with their fingertips to lure voters for support.

Electoral Commission Officers must realise that corruption emerge at the campaign trail and at the actual election time. Hence it is crucial for them to ensure the registration process runs smooth, corrupt free and without culture of political contamination.

But currently how the Electoral commission conduct the registration using the newly introduced biometric technology now is highly suspicious because inclusion of politicians will give rise to fuel corruption at its best.

Best thing our politicians should do is, stay out from the work of electoral commission if they have to be independent and corrupt free .One of the biggest problems in our country particularly in our bureaucracy system is politics takes superiority.

Another scenario that is chronically embedded in election which the Electoral Commission lacks proper mechanism to monitor is the current MP’s and intending candidates always indulge with buying votes.

However, with the meaning of the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act which clearly stated buying votes is illegal. You do not need to be a lawyer to understand and explain what the law provides for.

Under Section 70 of the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act [Cap 87] stipulates that “any person, who is guilty of bribery, treating or undue influence shall be guilty of a corrupt practice…”

And section 71, section 72 and section 73 of the said Act outlines the actions by intended Candidate, Current Members and Voters that amount to bribery, treating and undue influence respectively.

For instance, according to section 71 of the Act a Candidate is guilty of bribery (and therefore is guilty of corruption) if by “himself or by any person on his behalf gives, lends, or agrees to give or lend, or offers, promises or promises to procure or to endeavor to procure, any money or valuable consideration to or for any elector…to induce a voter to vote for him”.

“If the registration process now is not fair and politically influence, certainly public disorder could happen in the future”

I urged the Electoral Commission to start looking into the matter with the view to changing the relevant laws in the future.

While I appreciate the introduction of the Biometric Voter Registration, I doubted it would result in the election of quality leaders.

The real issue the Electoral Commission should address is the integrity of candidates contesting the election.

Electoral Commission should come up with legal mechanisms that would ensure only candidates with integrity, without previous criminal records, and with a good level of education should be contesting our elections.

The new voter registration process, it does not address these fundamental issues. Another area the Electoral Commission should look into is only those with political affiliation should contest the election.

“With these issues remain outstanding; I don’t see much hope in this year’s national election

As a matter of fact the problem with the quality of leaders will remain unless these fundamental issues are addressed.

Fundamentally, election of the Prime Minister should be done by the people; this is an issue I believe the Electoral Commission should seriously pursue.

Under the current Electoral Act, MPs choose the prime minister after the national election.

Public perception that this process has given rise to bribery and corruption as candidates and groups sought the support of winning MPs.

To avoid such situation, Solomon Islanders should be given the mandate to choose their prime minister.

This has been done in some overseas countries and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be done here.

Lobbying period prior to election of the new prime minister is critical because it is time when lobbyists team up with prominent business people to lobby for MP’s for majority support to elect for the new Prime Minister.

Government relevant authorities and stakeholders, such as the Electoral commission must not turn a blind eye to ensure the registration process is corrupt free according to the law.

As a matter of fact the upcoming election is crucial because outstanding issues need to be address such as health, education and other government services are running down.

If we recall the 2006 riot is a clear manifestation of a corrupt elections which resulted to the burning and lotting of Chinatown.

Future social unrests and disorders in the country are possible because successive government failed to address some of the pressing issues affecting the country.

The recommendations in the 2006 April riot report never addressed by successive governments some important recommendations in the report have been brushed under the carpet and never tackled.

Failing to address these issues is a syndrome for future riots.

This indicates lack of political will in the past and present governments to implement it.

One of the important recommendations is addressing lack of employment opportunities in the country.

That was obvious in April 2006 riot where most unemployed people were involved because they don’t have a job and look for opportunity to find something to survive because of no job.

Another significant concern now is the failure by governments to address land issues in the city where foreigners are being allowed to purchase land so easily while Solomon Islanders were pushed out and left to watch.

It happens in front of our naked eyes where foreign business people are dominating all the land space in Honiara as far as the Ranadi industrial site with new shops and residences being built.

This pressing issue speaks volume, that future governments must implement the recommendations in the April 2006 riot report.

Government has yet to respond to these many growing social problems with much priority.

High unemployment rates, poor service delivery of quality education, poor health facilities, and lack of rubbish collection to name a few are some of the many issues that are still not being addressed by past and present governments.

Yet, the city is a rich place, surrounded by poor people.

This is a clear recipe for more riots and social unrests to happen in the country.

The country’s social history over the past four decades revealed that the country had experienced riots and public disturbances due to dissatisfaction.

Therefore its important that future government, churches or business houses must work together to address these issues affecting the country for the good of this nation and its future.

In Madang
Divine Word University