Taking a principled stand against corruption, especially when corruption is entrenched, doesn’t come without some cost, personally and even politically, as appears to have been hinted at in the latter case in the Solomon Islands.
Let me first illustrate by what I mean when I refer to personal cost when facing up to corruption.
In the late 60s I transferred from Swaziland, where I was then a serving as a contract Assistant Superintendent in the Swaziland Police, to Hong Kong and joined the then Hong Kong Police (HKP)
To gain entry to the HKP I was forced to drop my rank and enter as a probationary inspector and undergo six months of recruit training at the HKP training school.
I was awarded the ‘baton of honour’ as best recruit during training and was then posted to a Kowloon Police Station.
Having served in the Royal Military Police in Hong Kong for three years previously (1959-1962) my knowledge of Cantonese was quite good and I was soon to hear things and witnesses occurrences at my police station that gave rise to my deep suspicions about corrupt practices taking place under my nose.
I was then relatively young, married and had two children. I was also serving on permanent and pensionable terms of service with the prospect of 26 years in the Force ahead of me.
I found the level of corruption so abhorrent that I resigned and reported my observations which, to keep my account brief, I ultimately know had a hand in the creation of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Of course, having resigned and having faced up to corruption, I no longer had a permanent and pensionable job and never had one thereafter, always serving on contract terms.
In a letter to the Solomon Star in early June, Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) challenged the Prime Minister to demonstrate his government’s commitment to the raft of anti-corruption measures he had announced last December.
This challenge was brought about after the first two Bills in the raft of anti-corruption measures that had been proposed, the Anti Corruption Bill and the Integrity Whistle-Blowers Bill, failed to get a reading in the Parliament.
Reasons were given for the ‘withdrawal’ of the Bills and some political speculation followed but, I for one, am prepared, as I said previously, to believe the government is wholly committed to introducing the legislative measures to begin to rid the country of the scourge of alleged corruption and, like in my own past circumstances, to consider for the government and the Prime Minister in particular, there could well be costs to be thought through and resolved before taking bold, principled stands on corruption issues that have been long entrenched.
The newly appointed Chairman of the Solomon Islands Leadership Code Commission has announced that his investigators will begin to probe allegations that some public servants own properties that are beyond their incomes.
A principled stand by the LCC and one I am sure will be broadly supported in the community.
I would urge public participation in all anti-corruption measures, including the engagement of civil society groups to reinforce the fight against corruption and to promote real change towards integrity.
Solomon Islands must shift from a well perceived culture of corruption to one of accountability and one that is absolutely necessary to win public confidence and is good for its future prosperity.
It is, in my view, very essential to have a strong political will and commitment, good government and good governance, administrative accountability and simplification of procedures on corruption related regulations to ensure their effectiveness, regular reviews of high-risk areas and whistle blowing procedures.
Integrating ethical values into management can also prove effective tools to curb the menace of corruption
It would be my further suggestion for the Solomon Islands Government to implement a Minimum Anti-Corruption Capacity (MACC) in the Public Service and that all departments develop an anti-corruption strategy that is designed to address, at least:
– Prevention of corruption
– Detection of corruption
– Investigation of corruption
– Reporting corruption, and
– Resolution of corruption
Former police commissioner