SIR Bjelke-Petersen, one-time Premier of the Australian north-east State of Queensland, once referred to journalists as chooks.
And each time his government was under threat because of some issues raised by journalists publicly either on the airwave or in newspapers, he would say, “it’s time to feed the chooks”.
News conference was his feeding time for the chooks. It appears our Prime Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo, has picked up the phrase from Sir Bjelke-Petersen’s book, “Don’t You Worry About That”.
Prime Minister Lilo reportedly told his close confidante in recent days that his trip to Indonesia nearly cost him his job because of an internal revolt, allegedly instigated by senior government ministers.
According to sources, Mr Lilo told friends it was looking really bad until on Tuesday evening.
A day later he told friends the matter was now behind him as “he has fed the chooks and they now appear to be all satisfied,” referring to his ministers
Whether it is mere speculation, no one can really say for sure.
The fact that the growing internal revolt within Cabinet to have disappeared overnight, particularly in the face of growing push by the civil society network that the Prime Minister steps down, does seem to suggest there are forces at work within.
We may never know the truth.
But let me come back to what started it all. The per diems and size of the delegation aside, the controversial visit to Indonesia recently seems to have been taken out of context.
As an individual I see little wrong with the visit. Indonesia is in our neighbour, we need to know them well.
On that score the visit is timely especially at a time when alignment of global political alliances continues to take place.
Solomon Islands is an important strategic nation in the Asia-Pacific community neighborhood. For that reason, we need to know the leaders of the nations around us.
Secondly, the issue of money. Money is and will continue to be a sensitive and touchy issue.
This is more so when equally important issues on the domestic front appear to have taken second fiddle in terms of our leadership’s thinking.
Take for example, the unilateral actions taken by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) such as the National Provident Fund and the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority (SIEA).
One reportedly locked out at least three government ministries for reportedly non-payment of rentals, which has surpassed the one million dollar mark in outstanding rentals and the other had reportedly cut off power supplies to a number of government institutions.
Externally our students continue to beg for the payment of their allowances. These domestic issues made the visit to Indonesia irrelevant.
But on that note, the money spent on the Prime Minister’s delegation, is really not a big deal.
Although I don’t agree with him on almost all issues, Gordon Darcy Lilo, is the Prime Minister.
He represents this nation. It is within his realm of do-ables that he returns in kind any formal functions hosted in his honor.
Nothing is worse than a Prime Minister being strapped for cash when he’s overseas.
What is wrong about the trip is the blatant lies told about the funding arrangement – something the Prime Minister’s Office had to retract later, that Jakarta only met internal costs.
Anyone who knows about how government works would know that that has always been the case anywhere every time.
To say otherwise only shows how little those in charge know about these matters.
What is missing from the visit is really whether the delegation had brought the bacon home.
To date, no one has seen any benefits either short or long term.
The only tangible outcome of the visit is that we have ignored the plight of the impoverished Papuans in Irian Jaya.
Papuans sought our help but we’ve thrown them out the window.
To me, that’s a shame and a tragedy of the trip.
By Alfred Sasako