WE treasure this opportunity for being able to comment on the above captioned initiative undertaken by our government.
We have learnt with gratitude of the fact that Choiseul Province will be considered for a fourth Constituency.
We have also learnt that the Constituency Boundary Commission (CBC) is in the process of recommending to Parliament the following Constituencies for Choiseul Province: NE Choiseul (Wards 10-14; Pupuku to Laena); NW Choiseul (Wards 7-9; Solavae to Ogho); SW Choiseul (Wards part 5- part 7; Solavae to Padi); and SE Choiseul (Wards 1- part 5; Wagina to Padi).
Clearly, the CBC recommendation has dismantled three existing constituencies and restructured them to accommodate the 4th constituency, and perhaps using population as the only core basis of its decision.
In doing so, the CBC has indeed created a situation that is alien to our local setting and equally important it has also distorted existing customary boundaries.
We are so convinced that implementing this plan is not helpful at all because it will allow room for potential future adversities.
We, the people of NW Choiseul Constituency residing in Honiara, through our Association meeting of 21st January 2010 at CEMA Board Room, unreservedly disagreed with the CBC constituency boundary arrangements for Choiseul Province on the following grounds:
1. Whilst recognising the rights of CBC to conduct, make decisions and recommendations to Parliament on the new constituency boundaries, we are deeply disappointed that there is no proper and systematic consultation and participation of the people to voice out their opinions and discuss concerns on this matter. Thus, we are disquieted that such a noble work of national interest and importance is abruptly accomplished with obvious deficiencies.
Consultation is important and of value to us in this matter because:
- Constituency is like a house to us. For you to enter, occupy and use someone else house, you must first seek his/her permission. Likewise, to decide upon issues, ideas and/or activities that will affect us and our rural communities, you must first and foremost consult us.
- Consultation is an important vehicle in which you convey your ideas to us, but also it provides an opportunity for you to listen to our opinions. It involves us in a political decision making process and nation building.
- Effective consultation upholds and strengthens the process and principles of democracy, and ensures stability, peace and progress in a multi-racial and diverse society. We believe in this, thus, it should be an important factor for your consideration.
- Lack of consultation denies and deprives us from our rights and has no respect for our existence and identity.
- Lack of consultation is a defeat in itself of the much talked about slogan, the “Bottom Up Approach” or the “Rural Advancement.”
2. The recommended constituency boundary arrangement by the CBC has no respect to and is certainly distorting existing customary boundaries. We are so adamant that the customary boundaries must remain intact for the following reasons:
- A customary boundary defines an area with / for a given purpose. Indeed, it demarcates the existence of certain ethnic grouping or entities; custom; culture; language; norms; tradition; tribal ties; land ownership, philosophy and dealings; and common genealogy and relations. In Lauru context, we believe these factors are the crux and very foundation for stability, peace and harmony within and among tribal communities, and which have created a strong bond, cohesion, proclivity, cooperation and collective aspirations among our people.
- A customary boundary does neither promote nor propagate marginalization of people rather it upholds, protects and enhances the people to live in unity, multiply and prosper because it recognizes their origin, status and rights.
- Even, during the colonial era, the establishment of political boundaries, e.g. area councils, have had recognition of the existence of customary values, practices and identity of the people.
- The famous term “Unity in Diversity” must be placed on a strong foundation if it is to be sustained. Customary values, norms and identity are the ingredients of a recipe for a strong foundation. Unless that foundation is solid there would be no “Unity in Diversity” in the Solomon Islands.
- Resolving a conflict and paving a way forward for peace and reconciliation is much easier to achieve within a defined customary boundary than outside it. Successful promotion of “Unity in Diversity” throughout the entire nation of Solomon Islands would therefore require respect and recognition of existing customary boundaries.
3. The constituency boundary arrangements recommended by the CBC is akin to a timed bomb, which will be within the time accord surely detonate. It will definitely give birth to a chronic marginalization of the people who are in minority. A good example of such a scenario is that of the North New Georgia constituency in the Western Province, in which we believe it is a daylight robbery of peoples’ democratic right, and so it must be avoided by all means.
A fair representation of the people is critical and is what we strive for because we believe that:
- The people are not mere objects but they do exist with God given life full of functional senses of feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing, and hearing. Thus, they deserve a fair representation in their elected government and nation as a whole.
- A pure politically motivated, discriminative and shortcut approach does not recognise peoples’ real situation and need. It only segregates them with no respect to their very existence and identity.
This speaks aloud of marginalization of people and, of course, denying them of enjoying the fullness of democracy. NW Choiseul people have already experienced this situation in the past – thus, there must not be any repeat of the same!
Under our democratic rights, we stand together to recommend to the CBC that the 4th constituency for Choiseul Province must be created within the existing NW Choiseul constituency boundaries, and be determined by share of its population (Table 1).
Note that Batava ward is the biggest because it hosts the provincial capital, Taro. Future expansion of Taro Township is duly considered in this proposal.
Both the South and East constituencies are unaffected hence, their existing boundaries should remain unaltered.
Table 1: Propose constituency boundaries for Choiseul Province.
In addition to the points being raised above, we further state that the constituency boundary we do hereby propose is deemed fair and satisfying to us because:
- Population of the NW Choiseul is the biggest of the three constituencies in Choiseul. Splitting NW Choiseul population would roughly equal that of East Choiseul. If population is one of the criteria to qualify for an additional constituency, then for Choiseul Province it is within the NW constituency.
- Furthermore, in terms of population density, NW Choiseul Constituency is heavily populated. It is imperative to recognise this as it is a good indicator for the size of population in relation to land and all its associate issues.
- Indeed, East Choiseul is by far the most remote and disadvantaged among the three constituencies of Choiseul Province. Thus, it would be unfair to the people if their constituency is further extended. Already, it had issues related to geographical isolation hence, it is better not to add salt to the wound.
- NW Choiseul Constituency is the host of a number of developmental activities in the Choiseul Province – this is worth recognizing. They include: Choiseul Provincial Capital, Taro; Choiseul Bay Provincial Secondary School; Taro Airport; and the Centre of Business Activities including access to outside world, e.g. Bougainville to name a few. These contributions towards the entire development of Choiseul Province should be highly appreciated. Thus, splitting NW Constituency into two constituencies would be a welcome gesture of recognition and respect for the people and the use of their resources. It will also allow for two mouthpieces in Parliament for the people within the NW region, which should be undoubtedly contribute towards stability and sound environment, especially within the township.
We on behalf of the members of the Association do hereby thank you and your commission for understanding and urge you to consider our submission carefully, and do grant us our request.
We do hereby affirm our collective stand and support for the aforementioned descriptions as indicated by our very own signatures.
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