AN old lady once asked me about who should she voted in the upcoming National General Election, given a confusing influx of mixed layers of gentlemen rushing in to run this political race in our local parliamentary constituency.
I, in turn asked her back how she felt about the candidates and the political role they are vying for.
She then jokily replied saying, “Ogeta! Pipol no ko kaikaim reko ia (slippery cabbage)… no mata man leg blo hem paralize bat like go inside too!”
The general publics of Solomon Islands is now at the verge of exercising their democratic and constitutional rights to elect in power, national legislators, whom by their new political status as rightful Members of Parliament (MP) will constitute the National Parliament of Solomon Islands to legislate, govern and protect the national interest of Solomon Islands in the next four years.
While this is a major national obligation for all the citizens, I encourage all registered voters to be conscious of this national obligation when voting in their respective constituencies.
Voting in this context is important. It is an opportunity for a citizen to exercises his or her right in choosing a national leader. It is a mark of authority that every individual citizen owns this country, Solomon Islands.
Thus I strongly emphasised that such right should not be privatised or seen within the framework of exclusive individual right but a more collective one knowing that Solomon Islands belongs to us collectively.
Such emphasis must be encouraged if we want to uphold a desire for better policies and tangible economic development and a better Solomon Islands.
After all, what we experience today whether good or bad, it is the direct consequence of our own decisions when we exercise our voting rights.
However, considering the above reality, I assume there is a serious internal dilemma that haunts the nation at this point in time.
The dilemma has been caused by intending candidates who are vying for these political positions to the registered voters in their respective constituencies.
While the intending candidates may claim their rights to the political race, I still think they are accountable to their own decisions and the adverse effects their candidacy would bring to the general dilemma that consequently haunt the voters.
I personally feel, as citizens of this country, we could best resolve this dilemma within the spectrum of our Melanesian value of collectivity, open dialogue and respect.
That means both the potential candidates and the voters, together need to decide what is best for the leadership of this nation.
Political decisions in this context should not be exclusively grounded on democratic or individual rights. It must be a collective right and responsibility.
In this context, it demands a framework or strategy to negotiate a form of political agency to sanction quality and sound political leadership the Parliamentary Constituencies.
The decision to run in the political race need to be considered broadly and discussed with the constituents well ahead.
The potentialities of candidates have to be examined against some checklists. It is just too naïve and unfair to rise up out of nothing and head on to the Parliament House with the claim that one has all the answers to the needs of the people in the constituency.
I feel that the lady’s criticism needs to be revisited. She complained of the common practice of generality and the naïve approach to democratic rights often made by people who intend to stand as candidates in National General Election.
This criticism, in many ways calls for a set of standard framework or checklist that needs to be established and acted upon whenever someone intend to stand. Often the dilemma in the election process is caused by the intending candidates themselves.
It is not the voters. In Solomon Islands, like other Melanesian colleagues, there are consolidated forms of sociality that often hold people together; social forms such as reciprocity, kinship, church affiliations and school-mates.
So in many circumstances, voters are at dilemma because they are enmeshed in the common web of these forms of sociality. It is just too difficult to make a choice free of prejudice, though voters know quite well people with potential qualities for leadership.
These forms of sociality have political control over the voters’ decision every time they go to the poll. When surrounded by such pressure, the final choice is to vote just anybody that comes in mind in the final ticking seconds when a voter stands beside the ballot box on the Election Day.
In view of this discussion, it is imperative for intending candidates to exercise diligence and consciousness about their potentiality for positions of national leadership. Certain foundational questions need to be asked.
Am I the sort of person that the people of Solomon Islands desperately in need of at this juncture of political situation?
What quality (moral and spiritual) of life do I have in place to impact national leadership that will eventually bear upon personal decisions or contribute to collective decision in the national issues debated in the National Parliament of Solomon Islands?
Do I have some forms of academic qualifications or professional specializations (Bachelors, Master, and PhD) that I will always draw on during the debates of national issues in Parliament?
In making this emphasis, I briefly want to reflect on our current model of national political system of governance to support my view. Someone has told me that the national political governing system that we have in Solomon Islands originated from Great Britain.
It’s a Westminster system. It is a more dignified political system that is grounded on three (3) pillars, the monarch, the state, and the Church of Church of England which two them are prominently recognised and uphold.
This tripod structure grounds significant qualities which I think all Solomon Islanders must seriously consider. The parliament is the highest dignified political space where people of certain dignified positions with academic and professional qualifications coupled with moral qualities are eligible to enter.
It has been a tradition of this British governing system that people intending to vie for national leadership of this nature must be of certain academic, moral, Christian, and class standards of either aristocrats or middleclass.
It is not just anybody! The parliament is comprised of academics and professionals such as lawyers, diplomats, economists, medical doctors and theologians etc.; mostly graduates from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
So it is not surprising to hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury during his visit to Honiara last month to say at the St Barnabas Anglican Cathedral that he also has a seat in the House of Lords and in the House of Parliament in England.
This reflects something unique. The House of Parliament is a dignified space. Thus the dignity of the House of Parliament is measured by the quality of persons elected and become its members. It is a yard stick!
For me, such composition such should not only emphasize the dignity of the political system also the quality of membership in system. This point is vital most significantly when deciding on laws and policies that impact the lives of the citizens of country.
I often listened to debates during National Parliament meetings but hardly could I hear three quarters of the Members of Parliament speaking or taking active part in the debates.
I wondered whether those muted legislators have ever qualified in any academic or professional fields up to college or university standards in order to master the details and contribute to pro-actively to motions discussed in parliament.
I know that most people do not like educated politicians because they will enquire. Instead they prefer to work with cheap cash dispensers; those that could easily distribute cheap sets of solar panels and corrugated irons on hearing soft whistling sounds.
Unfortunately, our National Parliament is losing out better qualified professionals and academics that could contribute productively to the debate of national issues that enhance equitable and much needed policies.
Instead, the Parliament is littered with aspiring money-makers, illiterate village big-men below secondary educations that more often snored in Parliament during sessions or excused themselves from meetings, simply because they have nothing to contribute.
This experience has come about because our current electoral system is heavily predicated on democracy and individual rights that eventually make it possible for businessmen and wealthier citizens to out-run qualified professionals and better citizens who could not afford to meet the demand of the traditional vote-buying system that rake this country.
On the moral side, there is much to be underlined on the moral lifestyle of Members of Parliament. As often heard on Sundays and Sabbath, Churches pray and intercede for divine interventions and blessing on the so called legislators.
As people pray for their nationals leaders, much are expected from them as well. It would be bias to list the moral expectations, but more emphasis must be placed well on the parliamentarians to be faithful to their wives and children and to perform their national duties with integrity. Needless to say they ought to live uprightly to keep themselves abound with Christian virtues.
But the real difficult challenge lies hard! History tells us that a number of academic and professional strict practising Christians fall prey to the political power of money when they entered parliament.
Unfortunately, during their tenure of leadership, their dignified ID tags were trembled upon, drawn into refuse bags and lost in the wilderness of life.
The poor spouses and children were stranded around the city in search for what to them a father, a national legislator. But luckily, he is not dead but found alive in a G- rented air-conditioned motel room with someone unfamiliar to the family, only to be introduced as mum a pseudo-wife to the family.
The children now have multiple mothers with a captain father. The wed-locked mother stationed in the domestic space to keep the household chores while the unwedded wig is harboured somewhere in an expensive motel, regularly visited only at night when the owls howled their near-midnight choruses.
Take precaution and be a man of dignity! People trusted you and have voted you in parliament. They offer regular prayers for your personal safety and leadership.
The upholding of you in the Lord’s temple measure the type of person who should be or expected to become.
You should be a man of dignity and moral integrity. The house you enter is people’s sacred temple that is crown with glory and dignity.
Finally be conscious of the old lady’s criticism. “Ogeta pipol no ko kaikaim reko ia (slippery cabbage)… no mata man leg blo hem paralize bat like go inside too!”.
If any person who is yet to decide or at dilemma whether to stand as candidate at the upcoming National General Election, I would then suggest to him or her that the yardstick to measure one’s potential is the dignity and moral integrity of the House of Parliament.
If you possess its qualities and expectations and certain that you wear its colour of garments, then you can count on your assume credibility to be marketable and bring justice to the sacred house and people you would represent.
By SANDRA RAMOTALAU