[The following is a speech made by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to Solomon Islands Parliament.]

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands Government, May 8) –


Mr. Speaker thank you for giving me the floor of Parliament to briefly out line the general direction of the grand coalition's strategic policies to address the development needs of the country. A more detail presentation will be made when the joint policy statement of the grand coalition is launched.

We believe that given the fact that the country has just come out of a situation that seriously questions the country's development strategies, we would be simply irresponsible to disregard the clear message of the ethnic crisis and the recent uprising. The pertinent question to ask is why did Solomon Islanders behave the way they did? Or why did the country collapse in 2000?

These are serious questions. We believe the answers to these questions should assist the country to design the most appropriate development strategies that would take account of the dissatisfaction that sparked the crisis.

But before I delve into addressing parliament on the development strategies, I would like to acknowledge the King of all kings and the Lord of lords who through His mercy and Love, gives strength to our nation Solomon Islands. Without him we are nothing. With him we are everything.

It is to His Glory and Honor that I once again recommit this nation and the Government of Solomon Islands. We are committed to continue to uphold the basic principles of Christianity, democracy, embracing love, tolerance and understanding in the administration of governmental affairs.

As Prime Minister and Leader of the Grand Coalition that now forms the new government, I take this opportunity to reassure the people of Solomon Islands that this government is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. This means that this Government is the people's government, not "My Government".

We will strive to create a viable Solomon Islands that we will all be proud of. In this regard, we are committed to make the necessary changes and reforms that will empower indigenous Solomon islanders to participate actively in the economic, social and political development of the nation.

This is to ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources, wealth and opportunities that will be available through good governance and the triumph of democracy.

We will continue to recognize and respect our diverse cultures, worthy values and religious heritage as the foundation for a cohesive society. We further recognize that a well-informed population and ethical leadership will ensure a peaceful and united Sovereign Nation.

We are committed to ensure that the conduct of leadership is consistent with the highest ethical standards to enhance the strengthening of our democratic, constitutional and community institutions and structures.

Cognizant of the desires of the people of this beloved nation to live in peace and enjoy the freedom that comes with social and economic security, the people's government will seek to cultivate and build a God-fearing society that is equitable and just, honest, trustworthy and forward looking.

The pressing issues that face our nation at this crucial time of our history is common knowledge to all of us. The events of the last two weeks reflect the deeper undercurrents that this government will seek to find solutions to. We will carry on business of governing with a view to redirecting the course of this nation to the goals we have set ourselves.

The Federal Constitution.

The current Draft Federal Constitution will be pursued vigorously and adopted in due course.

The Coalition is of the view however, that if the new federal system of government is to be considered as a principal strategy to address the inherent deficiencies of the present government system and its supporting economic and development strategies that had been responsible for creating the environment of ethnic hatred and intolerance, then it must as a minimum requirement premised on the following fundamental principles:

Sovereign power and the right to decide on who should be empowered economically and politically is rightly the prerogative of Solomon Islanders (indigenous), and the Solomon Islands Government The new federal constitution understands and legislates this issues through the eyes of the existing suppressive system thereby continue to commit the serious mistake of perpetuating the underlying causes of the revolt against the highly centralized and foreign controlled development strategies.

Right now, the effective control of who should be empowered economically in Solomon Islands is with those who have effective control of financial resources, technical know how and other resources. We are arguing that the constitution cannot continue to condone such a system because we are effectively putting a noose around our own neck.

Regarding political power, we only have to learn from the underlying reasons behind the ethnic crisis and the recent uprising to see the need to positively discriminate against non-indigenous using their economic powers to influence the peoples' vote in the race for the control of political power. If there is such a thing as positive discrimination, then we believe this is the occasion that such a policy is most appropriate.

Genuine Recognition of Traditional Values and Customs in Leadership, Discipline, Custodian of land, and Governance: We appreciate the comprehensive recognition of customs and customary laws in the new constitution, which is a marked improvement from the present foreign constitution. However, we believe that much has yet to be done on the issue of customary land. The constitution recognized and protects the right of the people in regard to customary land but at the same time the constitution continue to support the undermining of that right through the foreign court system. We believe that land is the single most important issue that the constitution must not take very lightly.

Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms without undermining our Religious and Traditional Values; and worthy Customs: The key word is "worthy". The new constitution went as far as regulating the relationship between children and parents; and, husbands and wives. Whilst the rationale here is to strengthen the very basics of society, we could be doing the opposite.

Rectify Injustices: We believe it must be one of the primary objectives of the new constitution to rectify the many injustices that continue to haunt the people of Solomon Islands. These injustices are too many to discuss in detail. There are injustices relating to alienated lands; and land acquired under the order of the present foreign court system that have very little regard for the relevant customary land tenure system. There are also injustices brought about by the inappropriate financial and economic system currently in operation in the country, which only recognizes the already powerful and will continue to suppress the potentials of ordinary and genuine Solomon Islands in whose names development policies are designed all these years. There are also injustices brought about by the workings of a government system that is highly donor driven.

National Unity: The Coalition believes that the issue of national unity must be based on unity of purpose, determination and common principles within a general constitutional framework that allows for special arrangements, as opposed to 'national uniformity.

Rural Development

The People's Government will introduce targeted and focused growth strategies for the rural economy; a reorientation of economic policies to empower resource owners to be meaningful long-term participants in the economy. The strategies include:

The implementation of the bottom up approach to development in line with the new road map recommended by the Parliamentary Tripartite Task Force, which would see a reorganization of the budget to meaningfully address rural development. As an immediate step to effecting this strategy the government will announce its new policy on the administration of the ROC assistance to Solomon Islands. The new policy would involve instilling greater transparency in the use of the assistance by removing the discretionary portion of the assistance from the control of the Prime Minister.

The Government will undertake a more meaningful land reform that fully recognize the traditional land tenure system of the country. The objective of the reform is to ensure that land is available for development but at the same time fully . recognizing the intricacies of our traditional land tenure system.

3 The Government will implement appropriate strategies to speed up the process of decentralizing major economic development to other Provinces. This strategy would be facilitated through a private sector led strategy rather than a donor driven strategy, which failed miserably to work for us over the years.

The Government will develop appropriate strategies to actively address the plight of indigenous business people in the country. The reason for this is self-evident. We cannot afford to continue to neglect the need to involve Solomon Islanders in economic development and pretend to be normal.

The development of the real sector will be based on potential assessment to ensure that the potentials of the country are fully utilized and to avoid unnecessary duplicity.

Good Governance

During the past two weeks our nation and its leaders have come under sharp and intense criticism, both externally and internally, on corruption and the need for honesty and transparency in government. This demonstrates that we have serious governance problems and this is affecting the smooth flow of services and development in general.

We believe that the reactionary approach has not and will not solve this problem. We need to appreciate the root cause of the inherent weaknesses in our system of governance to effectively address the problem.

We believe that this is due to, among other things, the lack of understanding and appreciation of the inclusiveness of the principles and workings of good governance, which embrace the entire framework of organizational issues in the economy from grassroots to the national level, embracing the whole spectrum of organizations, procedures and systems in the private and public sectors.

There seems to be the tendency towards limiting good governance to the performances of the government within its narrow framework and organizational structure, with very little concern for the framework and organizational issues in the national context.

We believe that Good Governance is concerned ultimately with the issue of effective management of the economy in the most transparent and in the manner that renders the system open to the scrutiny of the properly established checking mechanisms.

It is important therefore that these checking mechanisms are allowed to work without being unduly hindered by narrow political interests and the desire of non-governmental organizations to advance their narrow agendas in the pretext of speaking on behalf of the people.

We believe that established organizations have a duty, by virtue of their open claim to serve the people, to be transparent and accountable.

With that background, the coalition is seriously concerned that the system of governance in Solomon Islands suffers from the suppressive actions of responsible authorities. There is very little flow of information between important organizations including the various rural community funding schemes in their dealings in matters of common interests that affect the lives of Solomon Islanders.

We believe that the government must take the lead in organizing a strategy to coordinate the national efforts through an appropriately designed implementation and reporting system that would bring greater transparency in the operations of the various organizations and schemes. The coalition will seriously consider a partnership approach as a strategy in this regard.

It is also observed that important institutions legally responsible for ensuring greater accountability like the courts, the Ombudsman's Office, the Leadership Code Commission, the National Parliament, and the Auditor General's Office have been deliberately suppressed by lack of capacity and rendered ineffective by suppressive organizational arrangements. Unless these weaknesses are addressed, the system will continue to be a breeding ground for corruption. The coalition is determined to address these weaknesses.

In addition to our intention to introduce a number of legislative measures in Parliament, for example, an Anti-Corruption Bill, to minimize and eventually stamp our root causes and adverse effects of corruption in our nation, we believe a lot could also be achieved through a simple reorganization of the good governance institutions including the need to clearly define the role of Parliamentarians.

For example we believe that members of Parliament are full time employees of the National Parliament either as Ministers of the crown responsible for portfolios, reporting to parliamentary committees or as full time active members of Parliamentary standing select committees responsible for ensuring that government departments are delivering the mandates of Parliament.

This would mean that the Committee system of Parliament must be strengthened through the establishment of additional standing committees and to be fully resourced to effectively carry out their functions.

We also believe that Parliament, as the supreme institution of good governance, must be further strengthened by pooling the good governance institutions together. This will involve the consideration to bring the Ombudsman's Office, the Leadership Code Commission, and the Office of the Auditor General as departments of the National Parliament.

This makes a lot of sense because the three institutions are primarily concerned with ensuring that Parliament decisions are carried out and therefore are appropriately part of the Parliamentary set up.

Foreign Policy

On the international front, the government will pursue a Foreign Policy based on selective engagement and pragmatism in order to ensure the country get maximum benefit from its diplomatic relations.

In the process of nation building a number of our partners stand out in ensuring that our nation upholds true democracy and the rule of law. Their presence in Solomon Islands is a manifestation of their commitment in assisting our beloved nation to take its stand in the free world of democracy and true liberty.

Regional Assistant Mission to Solomon Islands.

Forum Island countries represented in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) led by Australia and New Zealand is to be commended for their untiring efforts in the restoration of law and order in our country.

This government accepts that RAMSI still has a positive role to play in Solomon Islands, and shall review its role, functions and engagement plans being carried out, with a view to aligning these with Solomon Islands sovereignty and long term benefit.

May I, on your behalf thank Australia, New Zealand, Republic of China, Japan, European Union, Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom and all our other development partners for their continuous support to the people and government of Solomon Islands.

The Peace Process

This government recognizes the efforts of national leaders in trying to deal with the root causes of the 'ethnic tension. In these regards, the government will take into consideration the Resolutions of the Guadalcanal Leaders Summit and other relevant issues pertaining to the national peace-building process.

The truth and nothing but the truth will lead to true reconciliation and this government will pursue the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an essential step to social cohesion, national healing and unity.

Let me assure and thank the people of Solomon Islands for your active participation in the democratic process as shown in the general elections and the support that this government has received. Their cries have been loud and clear and it is my humble duty and that of the Honourable Members of this new government to respond to them.

This government will ensure that Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary translate all policies of government for effective and efficient delivery of services. We will take measures to address the fundamental issues of social and economic growth that recognizes the aspirations of the indigenous people of Solomon Islands to live in peace and enjoy the security afforded by the wealth and opportunities that are an integral part of the social fabric and heritage of this nation.

Ministerial Arrangement

For purposes of continuity this government retains the same ministerial line-up and the new Cabinet has been announced in the weekend. The major policy statements of the new government shall be released as soon as it is finalized by the joint task force. We hope to do that by Friday 12th May, 2006.

Finally it is now my humble plea to the people of this country but more so the 50 members of this honorable house to support the new government, as without the people's support we will not be able to achieve many of the goals mentioned. I am confident of that support as clearly manifested by the people over the last days.

I feel humbled to have been given the opportunity to lead our nation, and I would like to thank all members of Parliament especially my colleagues in the grand coalition for their trust, understanding and humility in allowing me to be their leader and now your Prime Minister.

To you my good people of Solomon Islands we have nothing to offer you except only hard work and sweat.

Long live Solomon Islands and may God bless us all.

May 11, 2006

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