Transparency Solomon Islands commends the media for keeping the public informed about the action/decision of the member of Parliament for Gizo/Kolombangara Hon. Lanelle Tanagada awarding her husband one of the six Constituency Scholarships allocated to the Constituency. What is of concern and more disturbing to note is her openly defiance response to questions raised by the media with much confidence at that. This corrupt practice/conduct is not unique to Hon Lanelle Tanagada, but it is nevertheless one that continues to indicate that regardless of gender once voted in, one can either change to be a good leader or choose to be just one of the cowboys/cowgirls.
With regard to MPs serving their family members and cronies, it is common knowledge in the previous parliaments [9th & 10th] that some members of parliament awarded scholarships to their children, sisters and brothers-in-law of their children, close family members etc. Quite often they are sent overseas using most of the budget provision denying and decreasing the number of students from that constituency that could have attended SINU and other vocational schools throughout the country. So why should we be concerned about her awarding her husband the scholarship. She may say it is nothing new, and that proper selection procedures were followed. We should be because it is public money or tax-payers money, it is conflict of interest therefore unacceptable and corrupt, it is counterproductive to the justifications put out to the public on the importance and benefits of getting many women into parliament. Many expect and hope for and want to see change and women being in parliament to influence that change to take place. This action is contrary to that.
Of the responses of Hon Lanelle Tanagada, Transparency Solomon Islands believes that in this instance regardless of whether proper procedures and selection processes were followed, given the entrusted power and authority she commands in decision making, the right decision that is expected of her when faced with issues of conflict of interest is not to award the scholarship to her husband.
Following proper processes, procedures and a plan for the constituency does not make this action/decision right nor can it be used as an excuse for the decision exposed by the media in this case. Regardless of how she would like to explain this away, this decision is one of conflict of interest, and a corrupt one - period. Many parents are struggling and here is a Member of Parliament who is well-paid from public funds awarding her husband a public scholarship allocated to her constituency. It could have gone to our younger generation from that locality.
Transparency Solomon Islands reminds Hon Lanelle Tanagada that the definition of Corruption is the abuse and misuse of entrusted power/public position for personal gain. In brief this is what this conduct is. There were a number of public officers that have been found guilty of conflict of interest and charged and convicted of corruption. They lost their job, sent to prison for awarding contracts to family business. This is no different and is conflict of interest committed by Hon Lanelle Tanagada for the personal benefit of her husband. Transparency Solomon Islands commended Hon Lanelle Tanagada being one the few members of parliament that contributed meaningfully to the debate of the anti-corruption bills that are now Acts. From her contributions it is the hope of many people of Solomon Islands that here is a leader who would be the voice of the people in the fight against corruption within the Executive Government and in the highest decision making body of the country the Legislature.
This action is disappointing. We watch and see another promising leader not being able to draw the line when she should have done exactly that instead of dance to the tune of business as usual. Here is another leader who is in politics predominantly to divert the flow of public funds and other material benefits to her supporter the husband. She is becoming highly skilled in her political jargon, spotting opportunities to use her political office/position language in Public to these ends, ending up being another diverters/rent seeker. In this case being a leader, she should have drawn a line given her public position when it comes to family member. The question is why the lame excuses for not drawing the line.
In this space like it or not Transparency Solomon Islands in relation to women in parliament or decision making, millions of tax-payers funds were spent and continue to be spent on the campaigns to get women into parliament. Transparency Solomon Islands whilst its priority is in getting good leaders into parliament regardless of gender does support the special attention given to the push/campaign to get women into parliament. It does so because they are the other half of the population and that we do have women who can be instrumental in the development of this country given the opportunity.
TSI respects the messaging that is used in these campaigns such as women are less corrupt, women are better leaders than men, and less likely to be corrupted. They can make decisions that benefit all than just their voters or families, they will address women’s issues and fight corruption. They will care for the country more than the men, make gender balance decisions, provide more opportunity for women, address women’s issues, and the list goes on. These are but some of the campaign messages that the people of Solomon Islands were given. The awarding of the scholarship by this elected woman Member of Parliament is no small issue. It is a big disappointment and is counterproductive to the integrity of women in Parliament and will continue to make it harder for women come election day and election year. Whilst Transparency Solomon Islands respects women leaders and will continue to contribute to the effort for free and fair election, the action and the defiance of this one female member of parliament is one big step-back, counter-productive to the effort to get women into parliament. The message it sends out is a concern and one that says that when the prize is right even a woman can be influenced to act otherwise when it comes to issues of conflicts of interest when families are involved.
The Chief Electoral Officer too is proud of himself that the 2019 National General Election has produced more women entering the parliament than any other election despite the fact that it is the most corrupt election ever run in the country. He also fails to acknowledge that female members of parliament so far elected apart from Hilda Kari are those with personal means or wives of former members of parliament. This does not sit well with the prospect of getting more women into parliament. This calls for the Office of the Electoral Commission to consult, involve and accommodate people’s participation, in the planned reforms to avoid a mismatch of the dreams with the realities on the ground specifically where our voters are and their importance in this.
Transparency Solomon Islands calls for urgent reform the electoral system to reduce the influence of political financing/monetization of National General Election giving both men and women who do not have access to funding have a fair go. Face to face civic awareness on the importance of National General Election is a must in this electoral cycle.
Transparency Solomon Islands would like to see women get elected into parliament, but more importantly women leaders who have fire in their bellies and heart for the development of all Solomon Islanders and not just themselves, women leaders who know when to draw the line. TSI urges Hon Lanelle Tanagada to do the right thing and revoke the scholarship award to her husband. You will be respected for that whilst maintaining your integrity. Do the right thing by the people of Solomon Islands. Instead of worrying about who your political rivals are, be concerned about your integrity and doing the right thing as woman. You can do this. It is not too late.
- TRANSPARENCY SOLOMON ISLANDS