AN eighty-five (85) year mother is probably the oldest voter who turned up to cast her ballot paper during last week’s by-election in South Choiseul Constituency.
Meet Mrs. Rinnie Barigakapathe from Malango South Choiseul who was amongst the first to cast her vote during the by-election on Wednesday the 19th of May.
By the time the clocked turned a few minutes after 8am a frail yet determined looking elderly lady slowly walked out from the exit of the Malangono polling station hunched over and cautiously took her steps, lightly being assisted by a younger lady but still without the use of a walking stick.
We motioned to her asking the young lady next to her if we could have a quick chat, after inquiring with her they both smiled and turned towards us before cautiously taking a seat.
After letting her rest for a while we got to talking and found out she lived just over two hundred meters away from the polling station, because of this she had to get up early in the morning and slowly made her way to cast her vote.
Asked about her voting habit she said “I have been voting since casting my first ballot for our member Jason Dorovolomo in the Legislative Assembly.”
Prior to the Solomon Islands obtaining its independence and introducing the provincial government system, Choiseul and Western province were simply known as the western district, and it was only years later they would go their separate ways and become provinces of their own.
Before the provincial government system was introduced, a representative had to be elected to be a member of the then Legislative Assembly and later the first National Parliament of Solomon Islands, and Rinnie was there to cast her vote back in 1976.
Rinnie is the eldest of 8 siblings and a mother of ten children of her own. As we spoke she emitted a faint aura of a weathered soul, yet every time she answered a question she would do so with a smile and every so often a shy giggle.
She spoke of her commitment to the electoral process in which she described as her way to elect a representative who would recognize her community through government assistance.
“So many times people have complained that they have not been assisted by the government or they were not touched by progress as seen in other communities.
“But I personally see my right to vote as a way to ensure we gain recognition and thereafter assistance and development of some capacity towards our community.”
Rinnie said she has never missed an opportunity to cast her ballot and this year for the South Choiseul Constituency Bi-Election she continues her commitment to the electoral process.
Listening to her speak about this, I could not help thinking about her life journey and the determination she still has to cast her vote.
So many young people have their own reasons for giving up on the system so to speak, opting not to partake in the electoral process, other have even refused to cast a ballot as a demonstration against a corrupt system.
But for Rinnie having endured a life that no doubt has had become the cause of her weathered soul, still believes in the system and proudly proclaims that she will continue to cast her vote for as long as she is able and encourages other to do so as well.
BY TERENCE ZIRU
Gizo News Bureau