Federal System In Solomons Could Increase Divisions: Academic

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Ex-political adviser Alasia warns proposal could lead to ‘disintegration’

By Bradford Theonomi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 6, 2013) – The proposed federal system for Solomon Islands is a threat that will bring about division rather than uniting the country if it is not handled carefully.

Former political advisor, Sam Alasia who is currently pursuing his doctor of philosophy (Ph D) studies at the Australian national university (ANU) said.

He warned that the proposed federal system in Solomon Islands is bound to cause further upheaval and tensions in Solomon Islands.

"The proposed federal system entails building brick-walls rather than human bridges.

"It goes against national unity and consolidation for such a small country with a divisive history and nature," he said.

"And if Solomon Islands is not careful, the federal system will lead to another upheaval and the country’s disintegration.

"We cannot talk about national unity when the very essence of the principle of common good is absent from the proposed Federal system," said the former political advisor.

Alasia pointed out that the concept of the proposed federal or state government has not been a genuine intention or wish from the start.

He said the idea emerged in the early 1970s when Papua New Guinea was on the verge of Independence and the Bougainville Secessionist movement led by Leo Harnett gained momentum.

"At the end of 1973, former member of the Governing council for the Shortlands, Peter Salaka addressed a meeting of the Bougainville District combined councils’ conference and said that the people of Choiseul and Shortlands wanted to join Bougainville because many of them had relatives and land on Bougainville.

"The Bougainville District Commissioner at that time, Dr Alexis Sarei agreed that the conference should write to the Colonial Powers; the Australian government in the case of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, and the United Kingdom for the Solomon’s, about the concerns raised."

He said whilst this is the case, in some respects, the artificial map drawn by the colonial powers between Bougainville and the Solomon’s already started to create tensions and problems for our country.

"And within the Solomon’s itself, this idea took on a new form and shape on the eve of Independence.

"This was the western breakaway movement and the push for state government by western leaders."

Alasia added even during tours by the pre-independence constitutional committee in the western province in 1975-1977, it was heard at Lambete, Munda that the idea of state government was forced on the population by a few educated people.

"While in many former colonies and territories, they were united and happy with the exit of the colonial power, this was not the case in Solomon Islands.

"The exit of the colonial power from Solomon Islands created not unity but disunity because of their failure to create a sense of national consciousness in the country during the colonial era," he said.

"So not forgetting that there are other underlying factors such as poor planning by the colonial government, and lack of constructive implementation of programmes which would help to negate feelings of tensions or of hatred and fear;"

"The state government concept was used by leaders especially by past politicians for their own political gains at the expense of stability, peace and national unity, said the former political advisor," Alasia said.

"In other words the state government idea became a scapegoat for feelings of hatred and fear and was over-politicized.

"For example, the first tension that the new nation of Solomon Islands experienced was the western breakaway movement and the demand for state government in 1976-1978 and the second tension created by other underlying factors such as unequal development, disrespect for Guadalcanal culture, people and land.

"And again the push for state government by Guadalcanal resulted in the ethnic crisis which started about twenty years later emerged in 1998."

In view of this, Mr Alasia it would be fair to say that the state government idea therefore works against the construction of a national consciousness, common identity and unity, Alasia said.

"This lack of national consciousness; identity and unity is something that we are still struggling with today, even after 35 years of independence.

"Thus a major priority for the nation at this point of time is a national dialogue or conversation on ways and actions to construct and build up this national consciousness, identity and unity."

He added the proposed federal system is not the dialogue or conversation that I am taking about because as it is, we are putting the cart before the horse.

"For example, do we have a division in either the Ministry of National Unity or Home Affairs that deals specially with such questions as constructing a national consciousness, national unity and identity.

"Or, are these ideas included in our school curriculum? What do we mean by these ideas? National consultation on such ideas would be useful I think.

"For example, will we have a national unity and reconciliation Bill to guide our future actions and ensure national unity and peace.

"And are we able to ‘give and take’ and negotiate our differences to find our common strengths.

"Again, these are just some ideas to think about," he said.

"As it is, the proposed federal system is engineered to address the symptoms of our problems only, not the root causes and I suspect the TRC may have fallen into the same trap as well of addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes of the ethnic tension.

"So whether you see the proposed dederal system as a blessing or a curse is up to each individual’s perception, however what is more important is having good quality leadership.

"Political or Governing systems can only work effectively when we have honest and genuine leaders who have concerned for the country as a whole.

"As it is, the proposed dederal system is based on a homegrown philosophy of ‘divided we stand, united we fall’ rather than the universal one of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ and as the Holy Book reminds us, a house built on sand will not last."

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