What Development Is Not About? Some Recaps from SIDTs Founder

By Longden Manedika Director, SIDT. (this article was sent to press (Solomon Star) in October 2014, remembrance of 100 days after Dr. J. Roughans departure.)

It has been a year ago, when he was called to rest, 24th October 2013. At this point in time, on behalf of the SIDT Board, Management, Employees and volunteers (current and past), I would like to acknowledge the Government, Civil Society/NGO sector, partners and friends of SIDT, for their respect paid to a gentleman-Dr. John Joseph Roughan, whom we remembered as a friend, colleague, teacher, mentor, and advisor to people from various disciplines who relates to him and his work. He was also SIDT’s founder. Paul Roughan (Lt. Dr. Roughan’s son), I also think of you on this occasion and being the advocate to your family in Solo and USA for SIDT’s memories for your dad presented herein.

Humbly, I’d like to select a little meat from the bones on some of Dr. John’s legacies for SIDT and for our Country. He used to highlight that ‘development is not about the almighty dollar alone, but is about people’s lives’ Sometimes you can hear him argues that money cannot be the substitute to development, though important, it (money) can only be an addition’.

He acknowledges that the above statements contradict the lifestyle from where he comes from-New York City, where he was born and raised. In NY, money is almost everything one needs to survive. He entered Solomon Islands on a missionary tour of duty in 1958 and later found out that ‘Solomon Islands is a Nation comprising of thousands of villages-with wealthy people. ‘They own mountains, land, and sea …’, he said. His research continues and flourish and when SIDT was incepted in 1982 the Goal becomes ‘to improve the quality of village living,’ taking into serious account, Strong Villages= Strong Nation.

The development paradigm he appreciates is about people being informed and empowered so that they make informed choices and be able to help themselves. Information sharing then becomes the SIDT mission. As he builds capacity for his employees John’s method is simple ‘Get the information from the people, refine it and give it back to them because it is theirs-Be just like the fly on the wall. They will not be able to disagree from what has been theirs and they (people) will decide to map and graph themselves. Remember, listen with the third ear.’

The words development or projects as described by him, are new words that have entered the village setting. Some reflections to add: To substitute (replace) the way we live with development initiatives that money controls is a trap programed to blindfold resource owners. Sometimes this can be dictated by and for the wealth of a selfish, greedy few. This does not mean that money is not important, however, it (money) should only be an addition that only complements the simple lifestyle village people own. If we own something we can still have control over it! Every indigenous Solomon Islander comes from the village setting- we call this home, the power-base is what we own. Even past, present and future Politicians have or will confirm this as they are to secure support/votes from the village audience before becoming legislators. Further, reality shows now that financial reward today is a key expectation from Government, investors, resource owners and other third parties (middle persons-individuals/firms) from any development initiatives. This may or may not be a problem for some, but somehow people (mostly village level) that have custody and concern of the environment (Natural resources) and the social fabrics of village setting are paid less attention to in development planning. Environmental and social rewards should not be overlooked that cheaply. It can be even more devastating if investors have influence over our political system negatively. This will widen the gap between people and their Government that even money itself cannot bridge. This can be when Development is not about money

alone, but about people’s lives that needs to be improved out of it. We need to revisit our villages’ quality of life indexes together. God Bless Solomon Islands.

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Our Nation: Government, Business and the Civic Society

The picture of a three legged stool illustrates the three most important parts of any nation. If a nation wishes to be strong and useful like a three legged stool then it must pay attention to each of the legs. Just as it would be impossible to sit on a one or two legged stool, so it is quite hard to have a strong nation that depends upon only one or two parts of the nation.

Government

The first duty of Government is to protect society from violence inside the country and invasion coming from outside. Also it has the duty to protect each member of society from injustice and hurt coming from other members of that society. This is usually done by having a good justice system.

A good justice system not only helps the small person, the villagers but it is only very important for business people as well. A business man wants to be sure that his investment monies are protected by law.

The third most important duty of government is making and maintaining public infrastructures like roads, wharves, bridges, hospitals and schools which would be too costly for any individual to do.

When the nation has a strong government leg, all members of society are protected from injustice from inside as well from invasions outside, health and education services are provided and a solid justice system exists. When this happens, the nation will be strong.

A government will grow stronger when it looks less at itself and more to the other legs – business and civic society. In fact a government can only be strong if the other two legs are strong and dynamic.

Business

The second leg of the national stool is Business. That includes big companies like, Telekom, Bowmans, Isabel Development Company, as well as the small businesses, from village store to Honiara’s shops, to the taxi and bus transport businesses.

All of these Businesses are important for the good health of the nation. But the nation needs balance. The work of Business is not only the bottom line (profit) but the health of the nation. So like government, businesses must look two ways at the same time. Business houses have a duty to the government (pay taxes and duties) but to the people of the nation as well.

Civic Society

The third leg of the three-legged stool is Civic Society. Churches, villagers, non government organizations, sports groups, women’s clubs and the people themselves make up Civic Society.

Civic Society needs government to help in education, health, roads, wharves, air-field, etc.But people need to buy and sell as well. Business houses are needed for life. People are asked to pay their taxes, obey the law and work well. In other words, all three parts: Government, Business and Civic Society are needed to work together. Each has a job to do, each must look out for the other two parts. When the three sections work together, are strong independently, and are concerned with other two sections, then the nation lives well.

Unstable stool

Unfortunately Solomon Islands now has a three-legged stool that is unstable. It is weak. No one can use this stool because Business has become too strong and pushes Government around. Civic Society has grown very weak. The picture of the top sided stool on this page shows what happens when the three legs of the stool no longer stand in balance.

The Business leg has grown too large and too powerful. It is too close to Government and pushes it around. Look at Honiara’s land deals. Why should only a few business people own most portions of lands in Honiara? How is it that too many logging companies have access to our country that is taken for granted? The Civic Society leg has grown much too thin, too weak. It is not holding up its part of the national stool.

Two things must happen and happen quickly. Civic Society must become stronger and Government must move away from Business pushing it around. That is why our national elections in June this year must begin the process of bringing three legs of the nation to their rightful place and proper strength.

When a candidate comes to your village, ask him what he will do in parliament to make sure that Civic Society begins to become strong again, and ensure that Business becomes less powerful and stops forcing the Government to listen only to their interests……

 

 

Should Women Enter Politics?

Election Fever has caught the nation. Political meetings awareness campaigns, Posters and banners fill our newspapers. Radio messages carry the candidate’s promises. Everybody seems busy preparing for the national election. Some are hoping to win a majority of votes and finally get themselves into parliament.

There are some things that make people say we are for this person. In some parts of the country women are beginning to mobilise themselves to enter politics, to speak out of women’s rights, to work hard for the rights of poor people. Link fully agrees it’s a great idea for women to enter politics. The more the better!

It is also the right time, however, to ask why do women want to run for a national seat. Why do they think it is a good for the nation for them to seek a place in parliament? What do they add to the nation if many of them sit in parliament?

Selfish motives?

Is a parliament seat seen as a way to fight for people’s rights, to make sure that the forgotten half of Solomons has a voice or is it a neat way to get a bigger slice of the economic cake, for example, RCDF monies?

We suggest to women candidates that they examine thoroughly why they seek the highest office in the land. Is it because they see it as a place to battle for good ideals? The country sorely needs people with integrity, sound minds and Christian principles. People, both women and men who have what it takes to lead this nation strongly into the new millennium should work together.

Women, Link truly believes, better represent the nation’s other half. The silent voices which are rarely hear from. Women have an inside view on women’s problems, their view point but especially the life of today’s mothers, daughters and grannies.

However, in politics women enter a structure which is governed by the majority. Political ‘horse trading, ’giving up one thing to get another rules the day. That is why it is vital that women who do enter the highest political arena keep in touch with their sisters in the village, in town and in business. No matter what it looks like, democratic power flows only one way from the bottom to the top. Not the other way!

Empty promises!

The campaign season is promise time, empty promise time. Many budding politicians like to use God talk to paint themselves in Christian colours.

We ask women not to fall into this kind of political strategy. Keep your message short, clear and doable. Use the old KIS principle. Keep it Simple! Speak about how if you are elected, you will fight poverty. Yes we do have poor people in our society. Village mothers who have to travel many hours to have their sick child taken care of youth who feel left outside of society, old people who are neglected.

One of the most effective ways of getting out of poverty is to increase education opportunities. That doesn’t mean just opening up more schools, getting more children into secondary, having more overseas training. But working for on-going education for adults, non-formal education for women and young adults, and better preschool.

Forgetting one’s roots

Over the past 35 year’s independence, our Honourable have forgotten their roots. Everyone of them have been born in a village, grew up there but now don’t want to have anything to do with the village. How many times do they revisit their roots? When was the last time they did something worthwhile for their village people? The answer they usually give is just before election time! Isn’t this the reason that village people do not really know their parliamentarian?

Women do better than men?

Link does not say: Women do better than men in politics, what we do say however is that women will not do as badly as the men have done over the past 35 years of independence. Women’s political track record will not destroy a nation through the family, through the children and through the group. Women’s natural instincts are towards the family the group, not business. Give them a chance to address women’s needs and rights rather than business as the top priority.

 

Remember you have the right to vote, so vote wisely

After every four years we go to the polls to elect our representative for parliament. These representatives are our Members of Parliament (MP).
Parliament is where laws are made and can be changed. Our MPs are those people we choose by our vote to represent us in parliament. Sometimes the MP we choose make decisions that we are happy with. Sometimes we disagree with them. Sometimes decisions are made in parliament when our MPs are absent!
Sometimes their votes are defeated because a majority is against our representatives.
Solomon Islands is now 36 years old as an independent nation. By now we should have had enough experience of meeting different candidates who come to us to ask for our votes. We have had some candidates who fulfilled their promises and others who did but had a lot of reason why they did not deliver what they promised.
Remember you have the right to vote and the next thing to do is to make good decisions and vote wisely. Your vote is secret. No one will see or know who you vote for, if people ask you, you do not need to tell them. It is a secret ballot.
On Election Day, ask yourself have you used your right to vote wisely by voting? Did you vote for the candidate who can best represent your views? Is the person you vote for is approachable and someone who listens to his people?
There are a lot more questions we need to ask but it is sufficient to leave it here and let us find out for ourselves what the illustrations here teach us.

SIDT advocates for Voter Education Awareness to our communities

The Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) is now preparing to take on its task as advocator for the Voter Education awareness project reaching out to our communities in the provinces who are vulnerable to information.

During the formal launching of the Project January 2014, European Union acting Charge’d Affairs Marc Van Uytvanck said that awareness is therefore key to change the future representation of women  and to ensure compliance with the national registration process and to create excellent cooperation towards free and fair elections as well.

In response the SIDT Director, Mr Longden Manedika said that SIDT is committed to work towards this year’s election by empowering people with information and using media as a tool to help out.

He said,” the Voter Education and Access to Unbiased Media Coverage is important for voters throughout Solomon Islands. This is what we are projected to address in this project. We will be working closely with the Electoral Commission, Development Services Exchange and our village theatre groups to implement this project. We are also looking at three dimensions in this initiative: before, during and after election issues. “

The overall objectives of this project are centered on four components;

  • Registered voters are empowered to make informed choices and exercise their democratic right to vote within a safe an unbiased electoral environment. To provide accurate and updated electoral information to voters to support their informed participation in the electoral process
  • To enable women and men and youth to actively and freely participate in the electoral process through the use of unbiased media resources and mediums
  • To engage existing SIDT partners (i.e Electoral Commission) and networks to disseminate accurate and updated information to the electorates
  • To foster political pluralism through increased engagement and coordination between partner civil society organisations.

I would like to acknowledge the confidence EU Delegation have for SIDT to implement this project. The proposal came through team effort he adds.

The SIDT Voter Education and Access to Unbiased Media Coverage is a 14 month project which already started as from January 2014 and ends February 2015.