That was when our beloved country was shadowed and even flooded with army personnel from the region commonly known as the “Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands”, RAMSI, lasting for quite a long period of time.
For some of us that was the first time to see people in army uniforms with guns in their physical presence and especially in an urban area such as that of Honiara.
As such the situation brought in some new ideas and mind set about the security status of our country, Solomon Islands.
One might argue that this was necessary for security purposes after what had happened which I don’t want to delve into and for the upcoming 11th Pacific Arts festival.
As a citizen of Solomon Islands and as far as the Happy Isles of Solomon Islands is concerned, army presence is not appropriate or needed in the festival venues because this will bring about wrong impressions of our country from our visiting friends regionally and internationally.
Let us thank RAMSI for their work for the last 10 or so years in our country as result of ethnic tension.
The appropriateness of their involvement was and is highly appreciated but to an extent where armies can be present at anytime especially during bigger promotional and peaceful events because of suspicions is not encouraging.
For how long will our country continue to strive under suspicions due to a short event of an ethnic tension that had taken place in about 2% of geographical location of the entire country without considering the peaceful experiences of the country’s population?
Therefore for the safety purpose of the people I feel that ordinary police officers are to provide security and support for the 2 weeks Pacific Arts Festival, not people in camouflage uniform with guns.
Solomon Islands on its own must start working on smaller things which will have bigger impacts and perceptions on the sustainability of the Happy Isles of Solomon Islands before singing “Gods save the Solomon Islands”.
Let us not use what had happen to us as a result of the recent ethnic tension devalue the reality of our beautiful country of who we are and what we use to do for the last 30 years since independence in 1978.
There are two things to do. One is to continue raising the army flag OR the peaceful flag of Solomon Islands high.
The point is that if we are to maintain our Happy Isles, we must not encourage the army trucks cruising around festival areas.
It’s now time to realize our mistakes and be united to hold our hands together by raising our peaceful flag.
Solomon Islanders are now ready to showcase peace through this particular event and is an opportunity to prove the world wrong of their negative thoughts and perceptions of our nation as a result of the recent ethnic tension.
Unlike physical products, peace can only be displayed through how we interact, behave and public’s attitude towards each other.
The smile you give is worth lasting images about our country so why not just showcase your beautiful smiles to our Pacific friends and the rest of the world not people in camouflage uniform with guns.
I feel that the upcoming Arts festival is a time to make changes. Different countries are coming together to interact in a special way and therefore citizens’ contributions are needed and appreciated. You could respect, love and give that special Solomon Islands smile to our visiting friends.
All these are needed to decorate our country and to showcase how peaceful we are as far as the Happy Isles of Solomon Islands is concerned.
Let’s impress on our visitors that we are a happy people to reflect the country’s slogan, the “Happy Isles”.
Hope the event will have impact on our economy in terms of foreign currency and it’s not the beginning but a revival of friendly smiles we used on a daily basis amongst fellow Solomon Islanders before the recent tension in Honiara and still exist in the villages in rural Solomon Islands.
Our commitment is to ensure we continue to respect ourselves and others in order to fulfill the truth about our existence as a peaceful nation, The Happy Isles of Solomon Islands.
By Watson Puiahi