FRIDAY’S rally in Honiara which was held to mark International Anti-Corruption Day went off peacefully and I ask myself two questions about what the rally achieved in the context of the need to address corruption in the Solomon Islands.
The two questions I pose of me are these:
Firstly, did the turnout numbers demonstrate the depth of feeling inherent in all sectors of the community to address the scourge of corruption and corrupt practices so well highlighted by TSI and the Leadership Code Commission, the Ombudsman, the Parliamentary Opposition, church leaders, civil society, NGO’s and others?
The answer I believe is a resounding yes.
Did the honourable Prime Minister, on behalf of his government, give any positive and meaningful answers during the rally to allay concerns about the hitherto alleged delays in bringing the raft of anti-corruption legislation before parliament, as promised 12 months earlier?
Depending on one’s individual points of view, I would answer in the affirmative and will explain my reasoning.
Firstly, though, it struck me clearly that there remains a tendency in the Solomon Islands (and I know this frommy personal experiences when in office as a former police commissioner) to prejudge or make incorrect assumptions about someone without the adequate knowledge to do so with any degree of accuracy.
Such assumptions can impact negatively emotionally on an individual’s well-being and on the individuals work.
I mention such recent, local, assumptions being prejudicial in the case of the PM because his statement made at the rally illustrated to me, at least, he is committed to seeing the introduction of anti-corruption laws and a subsequent press release from his office confirms his stand on fighting the cancer of corruption and the DCCG’s strategy from here on.
Referring back to prejudicial assumptions, I believe such actions amount to discrimination as a sociological term.
In other words, discrimination is an actual behavior.
Systemic discrimination involves a pattern of policies or practices which create disadvantages for the affected person or group and for group one might insert the ‘government. ‘
If the SIG government has been judged to have been delaying the introduction of the anti- corruption legislation, which we all look forward to being tabled in Parliament, and false assumptions made over the past 12 months in respect of the PM’s intentions (and his administration) then it raises the question as to whether better communication of the government’s plans might have made things clearer much earlier on.
From the press release, I have referred to; this is the gist of what was contained:
“The Prime Minister, the Hon Manasseh Sogavare, today launched the Democratic Coalition for Change Government’s (DCCG’s) Anti-Corruption Strategy and ActionPlan for the next three years in celebration of the International Anti-Corruption Daywhich the Government had taken the lead in organizing in collaboration with the Civil Society groups.
“In launching the Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan, Prime Minister Sogavare said it is a requirement of the country’s proposed Anti-Corruption Bill that the Government must launch and implement a national anti-corruption strategy no later than six months after the legislation is enacted.
“The Prime Minister said he approved the commencement of the development of the Anti-Corruption Strategy instead of awaiting the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Bill in June this year upon realising that the process to complete the review of the legislation would take some time.
“As such, he said over the last six months, the Government’s Anti-Corruption Team had been preoccupied with the development of the strategy.
“We have held national workshops and have visited all the provinces to hold further consultations.
“To date, although we feel that we are ready to roll out the strategy, we wish to consult more during the next four weeks just to make sure we capture all the needs and aspirations of our people to fight corruption.
“The Prime Minister said it was clear from the nation-wide consultation over the last six months that the country needs more than just the legislation on Anti-Corruption, Whistleblower Protection, Leadership Code, Elections, Political Parties and the Ombudsman to effectively fight against corruption.
“These laws are important for capturing and prosecuting acts of corruption.
“But, equally important, are initiatives to prevent corruption from happening and this is where the significance of the Anti-Corruption Strategy falls in. This strategy is an anti-corruption document that is at the forefront of preventative measures against corruption.”
“The Prime Minister said he is committed to table the National Anti-Corruption Strategy in the next session of Parliament and it will be at that time that the strategy will become available as a reference document for the public.
“He explained that it was his decision to launch the strategy last Friday because he wanted to commence the implementation of its action plan as soon as possible.
“For this reason, Prime Minister Sogavare said the anti-corruption team will soon be putting together the ‘Phone for Corruption’ project so it is ready for implementation by early 2017.
“The Prime Minister announced, in the meantime, the Government has already taken steps to strengthen its position in the investigation and prosecution of financial corruption in the public sector.
“As of August this year, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury formalised their cooperation to work closely with regards to the investigation of corrupt acts in the handling and management of public funds and assets.”
“As a result of this new initiative by our two agencies, we have now a total of 13 cases. Two arrests have been made and seven more are to be made in the next few days.
“Of course more are expected to be under the intensive scrutiny of the Janus Task Force once it casts a focus on other Ministries.”
By FRANK SHORT