Speech by the Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare on moving the motion of Sine Die on the occasion of the eighth Parliament – First Session – Second Meeting 10 October 2006.

 

Hon SOGAVARE:  Mr Speaker, I beg to move that at the adjournment of Parliament on the 11th October 2006 the present meeting shall be concluded and Parliament shall then stand adjourned sine die.  I will be brief and to the point, as I will have the opportunity to round up the motion after it is debated on. 

In moving this motion, Mr Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to make some explanations on the actions of the government, which were clearly taken out of context by certain people including Members of this Honourable House, which resulted in barrages of unfounded allegations against the Government. 

But before that, I would like to start by thanking a number of people who contributed significantly in making the present meeting worthwhile.  Firstly, of course, I thank His Excellency, the Governor General for gracing this House with his presence to deliver the Speech from the Throne. 

Yes, as recognized by all who spoke for the motion to thank His Excellency, it has been quite sometime since Parliament had the honour of hearing an address from the representative of the Head of State of Solomon Islands and therefore in that context, the event was rightly described by some Members of Parliament as historical.

On behalf of the people of this country and of course this Parliament, I extend to His Excellency our warm and heartfelt words of appreciation, thanks and we wish His Excellency and Lady Waena the richness of God’s blessings and good health.

Mr Speaker, I would like to assure His Excellency that the Grand Coalition for Change Government is committed to take custody of Her Majesty’s Government in the bounds of the rule of law to respect constitutional established institutions and to ensure that our constitutional rights are protected and respected, Mr. Speaker.

I would also like to extend the Government’s profound words of appreciation to the Head of the Judiciary, the Honourable Chief Justice of Solomon Islands, for gracing this House as well with his presence during the delivery by His Excellency of the Speech from the Throne.  Indeed, the occasion brought together the heads of the three arms of Government which is very encouraging.

I would urge your office, Sir, to take the suggestion that the Honorable, the Chief Justice made privately to you and I that it would be nice during such occasion that the House is also graced by members of the Bar Association, of course in full legal attire.  After all, it is the legal fraternity that helps interprets the many laws that passed through this Honourable house. 

Of course, I would also like to thank your office and that of the Clerk for the excellent arrangements that contributed tremendously to the smooth order of this meeting.

Mr Speaker, I would also like to thank the Permanent Secretaries and the Public Servants for their unwavering support of government and the development strategies we are advancing for this country.  The Public Service is very often unfairly criticized by politicians without a slightest appreciation for all the pressures they have to go through amidst all the politics that are going on. 

The same goes for the Permanent Secretaries, Mr. Speaker.  The Prime Minister was criticized for handpicking them since the commencement of this present sitting by certain Members of the Opposition, and this House continued to complain about this matter. 

Sir, there seems to be the argument that the Government is grossly careless and is replacing Permanent Secretaries left, right and centre and with people who are incompetent.  The same people also complained about the engagement of a non-indigenous Solomon Island citizen as the Secretary to Prime Minister.

Sir, I want to challenge this so-called protector of good governance and advocates of human rights to be genuine.  I am saying this because I guess I am sick and tired of hypocrisy.  These very people, of course, would not hesitate for one moment to advance racist agendas when it suits them and dare to advance themselves, as having concern for good governance and all it entails Mr. Speaker. 

The problem with some of us, Mr. Speaker is that we quickly suffer from serious memory loss.  There is a tendency for people to speak before they think.  I would advise all of us to grow up.  I would like to ask this question how dare we brand Solomon Islanders new Permanent Secretaries as incompetent and cronies of the government.  That is not right. 

For the information of this House, Mr Speaker and any one else who may be aggrieved by the action of selecting the new team of Permanent Secretaries, I want to make it clear that I have no other interest other than the interest of state in the selection of the Permanent Secretaries.  All of them are qualified Solomon Islanders who are willing and committed to do something to help the government achieve its objectives. 

I am amused by the attitude of some of us who would like to treat the government as our property even when we are not in government and we take the appointment of the Permanent Secretaries as if they are appointments to our own companies, and we complain about them.

Sir, there is also the tendency that every appointment to important posts in the government must be tainted with cronyism and corruption.  Sir, I just want us to come off that.  Just think of how can the government be careless of its appointment of Permanent Secretaries or anyone else for that matter.  That would be akin to, I guess, committing suicide. 

The fact of the matter is that it is in the interest of the government that we deliver on our election promises and because of that fact we must ensure that the people appointed to the posts are people we trust who can make it happen for the government.  In any case, the Ministers were fully consulted on the appointments.  Interestingly, more than 80% of the current Permanent Secretaries were reappointments. 

Sir, I would also like to express my disappointment at the way, I guess some of our very senior politicians, are behaving themselves.  All the politicking that is going on during the present sitting is clearly engineered by senior politicians, and this makes me sad.  This is not right. 

I am appalled of what I would like to describe as very childish attitude.  Senior politicians have a duty of care for the newcomers in this House.  The way we debate issues and how we conduct ourselves are read like open books by our new Members. 

In my view, these are the last people that I expect us to act irresponsibly.  To be honest, I hope the stability of this government with the new Members of Parliament would not take any non-sense of the so-called experienced politicians from both sides of the House. 

There is a determined effort I observed by some Members of this Honourable House to pull this government down.  Like I understand the memorandum of understanding is openly circulated to get people to sign up on what I see as a very evil agenda.  Thank God, Mr. Speaker, this determination is equaled by the determination of our new Members to stand for principles and what is right for this country.  I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the steadfastness sand commissioning of the Members to the mission of this government.

I want to take this opportunity to let the people of this country know that this government is committed to its mission and will not be deterred by the evil agendas of a very few individuals in this House.  We are determined not to disappoint the people of this country.  (A little later I will comment very briefly on the intended motion of no confidence). 

Sir, I guess much is said about ethical leadership.  I find it very amusing when people who advanced this concern relate it very narrowly, and for very obvious reasons to the way the Prime Minister is handling our relationship with Australia, and in doing so we confuse ethical leadership with strong and determined leadership. 

To put any speculation to rest we make no apologies whatsoever for the actions we took as a government.  Contrary to what the Opposition group is telling the world that the Prime Minister was taking his actions on his own accord and therefore a dictator.  The Cabinet and Caucus are consulted and so this Prime Minister is not stupid. 

I am fully aware of the principles of Cabinet/Government system and the need to consult.  If that is all we know about ethical leadership then no wonder we are confused ourselves.  Ethical leadership must be viewed in this context if we are to make any sense of perceived actions and behavior.

A perfect example is the demonstration of determination by the Prime Minister in the way he handles the current issues, which is misconstrued by all people as stubbornness, eccentric, madness and the list of adjectives goes on.  The problem with a lot of us is that we jump straight to the trees and we missed the forest.  We judge issues by our feelings and perceptions rather than facts and truths.  We allow our egos to be fueled by misinformation, fabrication, hyped up by media propaganda to a point where we find it difficult to recant when we have proven to be misinformed.  So much for ethical leadership. 

Sir, this is clearly demonstrated in the way some of Members of this House especially the Opposition Group and their sympathizers I guess are determined to make this Prime Minister look like a criminal, and surprisingly in support of alien agendas. 

As explained by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in a statement issued on the floor of this Parliament there is a determined effort by the Australian Government to frustrate the Commission of Inquiry.  That was clearly stated and we have proved to that effect in conversations that we have with the Australian authorities. 

Sir, this is an issue that the Grand Coalition for Change will not back up because as explained that policy is an integral part of a comprehensive piece strategy of this government and nothing will move the government to abandon it.  All other actions are intrinsically related to protect the integrity of the Commission of Inquiry and that includes some controversial appointments.

Given the above explanation, Mr Speaker, this side of the House cannot understand the attitude of Canberra on this matter. 

For the information of this Honourable House, Mr Speaker, the Commission of Inquiry was established in the name of good governance, transparency, accountability, the very principles that are advanced by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands in this country. 

Sir, by continuing to undermine the Commission of Inquiry Canberra appears to demonstrate double standards.  If transparency would support their cause then it is all right.  If it means it will expose weaknesses then it must be ruled as criminal.  It makes me sad as leader of this government.  Likewise when the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and his Cabinet are determined to protect the integrity of the Commission of Inquiry they are branded as enemies of Australia and therefore must be voted out of office.  I begin to ask the question whether we are still all right.

            To prove, Mr Speaker, that they will stop at nothing to frustrate the Commission of Inquiry they are now trumping up a new position based on a leaked Cabinet paper to the Solomon Star newspaper.  They are now saying that the reason for the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry is to facilitate the release of the two Members of Parliament.  This is laughable.  I sympathize with the person who may have leaked secret Cabinet papers, which in itself is a serious breach of confidentiality, but they would not care because it serves their purpose, a perfect example of what I referred to as blatant hypocrisy.

That issue aside, it is a fuss over nothing.  If they have an understanding of the decision making process in Cabinet Government system, they would realize that confidential memorandum by Ministers are nothing more than personal views of Ministers concerned, and that view is subject to the decision of the Cabinet.  It is Cabinet decision that matters on any issue ultimately. 

I am raising this matter because I just read the papers that come from abroad and I have it right here.  There are plans to raid the Prime Minister’s residence because of this leaked paper and the allegation is that the Prime Minister is using the Commission of Inquiry to release the two MPs in prison.  I find that very, very insulting and a slap on the face of this government and what it stands for.  We will stop at nothing to frustrate the work of the inquiry. 

Sir, if that is not enough, this side of the House is seriously concerned that the sponsors of the vote of no confidence motion are now using threats to get Ministers and government backbenchers to switch side, and a statement to this effect will be made on the floor of this Parliament.  The nature of the threat is if the Members and the Ministers concerned do not change side they will be arrested for their alleged involvement in the Honiara riots. 

This is a sign of desperation, Mr Speaker, an evil strategy indeed.  It is not straight.  If you want to win argument on issues, use the issues and do not use evil strategies like that because it is not straight. 

But the real motive of the motion is to just remove the leader but the government will continue.  So we are not surprised because that is exactly what Canberra wants.  Why?  Is it for standing up for the sovereign right of my Country, Mr Speaker?  Is it for defending an important program of the government that is concerned with the future of this country?  Come on, grow up! 

There is also a lot of concern by the Opposition Group that the stand off might affect Australian bilateral, and Australian funded regional aid assistance to Solomon Islands.  The Government fully appreciates that concern.  We are a situation here that we need to uphold the sovereign rights of the country against that issue and we expect the Government of Australia to understand where to draw the line. 

The issue with aid assistance from this particular aid donor is not that Solomon Islanders does not appreciate it.  No!  Our concern is that we do not want Solomon Islands to be used as a venue for international cronyism.  I have a document here to prove what I will be saying this afternoon.  This is a serious concern to this government and we are not making statements anyhow in the media when we talk about this issue.

If aid donors want to help this country then please be genuine with us.  It would be very interesting to see how these people would react if we show them the true impact of such aid assistance from this particular donor to Solomon Islands including the ones channeled through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.  

Sir, I am raising these issues because I was attacked personally, not only by the media people here in Solomon Islands but also by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Australia.  Sir, it is just unfortunate that there are people who are so entrenched in aid dependency that to move away from would mean the end of the world for them. 

Sir, I want to make some very important positions clear here as far as Solomon Islands is concerned in aid assistance.

Firstly, if aid donors think that Solomon Islands will be blackmailed into sacrificing the principles of good governance, they better think again.  We are not that cheap.  We are not. 

In fact I am insulted by the comments that beggars have no choice.  We should think more seriously on statements like that.  We have no beggars in this country.  Anyone who is hungry here can just go and dig the cassava and plant potato and other crops in the garden to eat.  Anyone who wants fish can jump into the sea.  So that statement is very insulting and is not right. 

Sir, I’m not saying that Solomon Islands does not need aid money.  I did not say that.  That is not what I am saying.  What I am saying is that if aid donors are willing to give us aid then be honest with us.  That is all we want.  Aid must have as its ultimate objective the alleviation of poverty and the improvement of people’s lives, that is people living in the aid receiving country, and in this case Solomon Islands.  This is what we are hearing but this intention is not apparent in the way the aid money is administered in Solomon Islands. 

Unfortunately so much is said about aid assistance and this particular donor under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands arrangement and bilateral arrangement, very little is actually spent in Solomon Islands.  I make no apologies whatsoever for making that statement.  It is a fact that we can prove. 

            In the case of this particular aid donor to Solomon Islands, Canberra is very, very clear about its objectives, and I have documents to prove that here.  And I quote: “According to research, aid is not directed to promoting sustainable development or at alleviating poverty but its primary role openly acknowledge by AUSAID is to promote Australia’s national interest”.  That is serious, that is very, very serious and it only goes to prove the things you have been saying. 

We talk about big, big figures.  If aid and the million dollars we have been talking about are coming into the country it would have improved this economy.  There is double tragedy here because all these assistances are by way of human resources.  We made a mistake.  I do not know intentionally or forced to do it.  We even exempted them from paying tax. 

The international law, the Convention on Taxation is that you pay tax where services are rendered.  This is a poor country and if they recognize that this is a country that needs that help then pay tax here. 

A rough calculation if they are paying tax it is more than $100million in income tax, import duties on goods they are bringing into the country.  That is all we are asking.  If you say ‘Helpem fren’ then be genuine with us. 

The report goes on to say, “What this equates is a boomerang effect that sees the majority of aid money - 80% flowing back to a small number of Australian companies and the people of the developing world get left behind”.  In fact companies like, and mentioned in the report are ACRL, GRM, AC SMEC and … end of quote.  I can go on M. Speaker and talk about this matter but I guess I made my mind. 

Secondly, Solomon Islands must come out, and it is us are sitting down here, I am talking to, we must come out of aid dependency syndrome if we want to move forward in sustaining our development.  We must do it.  The development strategy of this country for the last 28 years has been aid dependency.  That is how we advance this country’s development.  Just look at us after 28 years.  That is what I am saying.  If we want to take this country forward then come out of the aid dependency syndrome, and it makes me sick to hear people talking in this Parliament saying we need aid very much.  We need it but not depend on it. 

I am quite surprised, as I’ve said, of a number of politicians who would not come out of this strategy.  They would rather remain as slaves than puppets to aid donors. 

Talk about sovereignty, talk about the rights of our people, talk about the bottom up and we are complacent.  We are saying the bottom up will not work because aid donors will not help us.  Of course, they are very concern about it because it is about helping people right in the rural areas by strengthening them, empowering them economically.  That is exactly what others do not want.  If you are economically independent you do not need them.  People are afraid of the strategy this government is putting forward. 

Just look at this country, we are victims of aid management strategy by aid donors since we became a nation.  We are carried away with huge amounts of munitions.  Are you saying $1billion comes from and other billion comes from there and yet we forget to do something for ourselves.  We become dependants.  This syndrome also creates a careless attitude in developing countries as clearly manifested in the pathetic way we are managing our natural resources.

Despite of this we continue to be parasites.  I guess what I am saying here is if we are to take this country forward we must learn now to grow out of aid the dependency syndrome.  If not we will continue to remain the same again for the next 28 years.  This is why this country is serious about facilitating Solomon Islanders themselves doing something for themselves.  All the ingredients are there in the country because resources belong to the people, they are in the hands of the people and it is managed under the customary land tenure system.  That is strength.  We look negatively at the customary land tenure system saying it is a hindrance to development.  And this government is seriously looking at a reform that appreciates our customary land tenure system.  We will implement it as soon as it is finished. 

Mr. Speaker, aid is becoming an effective instrument of foreign control.  ‘You do as I say or lose aid’.  Come on Solomon Islands, we must open our eyes and see what is happening to this country.  Some of us, I guess have been looking very hard on it and it hurts us, (heart sore) to think about things like that. 

Sir, the Foreign Affairs Minister has made a Statement on the floor of Parliament as to how the government views the recent events that relate to the principal advisor of the government.  Sir, there are concerns raised and I fully appreciate them – statements and concerns raised which do not fall on deaf ears.

The problem here is that we have some serious principle to take care of as well and when they see the government as being stubborn.  Even in the newspapers on letters to the editor they are saying is the PM okay or what.  I do not blame them for such statements because that is how it is perceived from outside. 

As I said already there are merits in those concerns.  Clouded by the fact is the concern that he is a foreign lawyer and we should be engaging our own Solomon Islands lawyer.  I appreciate that as well but that concern is actually clouded by the fact that the Solomon Islands Public Service at this point in time is inundated with foreigners and so that argument does not hold water as it is not right.  The argument about foreigners must stop.  If we are concerned about foreigners then join us and we chase the foreigners away.  That argument must fall flat on its face.  It is not right.  It cannot hold water.

The issue here, as I am going to tell you the government’s position is no longer the person concerned.  It is no longer him.  In fact he is dispensable.  They can get rid of him tomorrow.  But as I have said there are serious principles that are at stake here.  What is making this case so important, not only to Solomon Islands but to the world is because it is a direct attack on the very foundation of the justice system of a sovereign state.  That is a serious issue.  It is concerned with our duty to respect the constitutionally established institution, and in this case the court system.  That is the principle at stake here. 

It is ironic that a central argument advanced by Canberra in all its dealings with Solomon Islands is the respect for the judicial system.  But it is really surprising that in this case they are prepared to rubbish the very system they protect.  This is hypocrisy in its blatant form and calls into question our motives. 

            Mr Speaker, Solomon Islands, under the leadership of this Prime Minister will not allow Solomon Islands to travel down that path.  No, not at all because that would amount to a direct attack on the judicial system of a sovereign nation called Vanuatu.  The court system of Vanuatu has already cleared this person but we are bringing up the issues he has been cleared of.  I just cannot understand this.  I cannot put one to one on this.  This is really not right to me. 

Sir, I do not have the intention to cover all the areas the Opposition may be concerned about, and since I am going to wind up this motion I will respond on issues that will be raised at the debate of this motion. 

Mr Speaker, I would like to end right here and beg to move that at the adjournment of Parliament on Wednesday 11th October 2006 the present meeting shall be concluded and Parliament shall then stand adjourned sine die.  Thank you very much. 

 

(Debate on the motion is now open)