ALL good people of Solomon Islands, at midnight tonight, this year 2022, will come to an end. And we thank God for what the year has been to all of us. We must acknowledge, however, that the year was full of health issues, economic challenges, struggles and difficulties. But through the love and goodness of God we persevered in our families, villages, communities, schools, institutions, provinces and as a nation.
However, it is a joy to know that as 2022 draws to close, the dawn of 2023 is here. We must therefore celebrate this New Year by putting God at the center of our celebrations. We must celebrate with meaning, purpose, care and respect for others and taking responsibilities for our own behaviors and actions.
New year celebrations are not about drunkardness, nuisance, disorderliness, lawlessness, execution of crimes and destruction of property. Good and successful celebrations only bring about joy and happiness.
If God is at the center of our celebrations, we expect to see none other than the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness and self-control (Gal.5:22-23). Happy New Year to you all.
This new year 2023, will be a special year for Solomon Islands. We will play host to sports men and women from 24 countries in the Region who will gather here to participate in the 17 South Pacific Games.
On Sunday 20th November 2022, the Hon. Prime Minister, some Ministers of the crown, some Church leaders, some men, some women and some youths gathered at St Barnabas Cathedral to pray for this nation as it prepares to welcome contingents of sports men and women to our shores in November.
The attendance at the service was not what I expected. The Cathedral was empty.
We must put aside our differences whether it be political, cultural or religious that continue to divide us. We should aim at working together to show our visitors what it is like to harmonize our diverse languages and cultures and offering nothing less than warmth and hospitality.
After the Ethnic tension in 1998 – 2003, the burning of Chinatown in April 2006 and the Riot of 24-26 November 2021, we must not remain passive but aggressively come out in the open and show our neighbors in the Region that we are not all that uncivil in our relationship with others.
During the last two years, the global community was drastically impacted by the effect of pandemic COVID19. In Solomon Islands, the community transmission of the virus created anxiety, fear, uncertainty and depression.
To prevent the spread of the COVID19 virus health protocols were instituted: wearing of facemasks, washing hands with soap and water, social distancing, lockdown of boarders, restriction of movement, closure of schools, churches, offices, hotels and so on. Still many people contracted the virus and some died. May their Souls Rest in Peace.
And as the dust settles, the impacts of COVID19 become more visible in the social and productive sectors. The health protocols triggered the downward flow of the economy. Cash flow slows down the completion of developmental projects.
Inflation increased to 8.5% pushing the prices of goods in the shops and markets to a level, ordinary citizens struggled to put food on the table. People have also cut back on spending because the room for spending has been greatly minimized.
Operators of business entrepreneurs have struggled to provide reliable services and transport providers have been challenged to increase fares in order to remain operational. Boarding schools, likewise, argue to increase fees to a level that both parents and students struggle to meet. Clinics and health centers lack accommodations and other basic facilities to cater for the needs of nurses. Short supply of basic drugs like Panadol, bandages and plasters also continue to be unending issues for health institutions to provide equitable services to the general public.
Employment opportunities in both the public service and private sectors have been saturated. That said, university graduates and school leavers find themselves at the deep end of the stick in trying to secure employment. A generalization has been made that as unemployment increases so are anti-social issues.
Many organizations both church based and NGOs strive to address the social issues but lacking resources so they end up addressing the symptoms other than the cause. The main cause, in this regard is unemployment that causes stress and trauma, that leads to domestic violence and other anti – social problems. Unemployment is the central issue that needs to be addressed if self-reliance and economic independence is to be achieved by all.
It is obvious that there is no quick solution to this problem. The seasonal labor mobility schemes in Australia and New Zealand may assist to alleviate the situation but not the panacea. May be university graduates and school leavers should try to create job opportunities and not merely waiting around to be employed.
Solomon Islands is abundantly rich in natural resources, which are divine gifts for us to use and enjoy. In view of that, universities, schools and training Centers need to review the curriculum they offer their students. The status quo for universities and schools to prepare their students for white collar jobs or even blue collar jobs is no longer true.
Very often students graduate with theories and academia, something very abstract but lacking economic strategy. I believe economic strategy is the missing link that needs to be incorporated in the school curriculum. The economic strategy should instill in students what is available for them after graduation including what financial facilities are available to help them create jobs.
Students must be encouraged to exercise resilience and the freedom in taking risks to pursue tasks to create jobs. It is the moral responsibility of the nation to see these things are available for newly graduated students from our universities, schools and training centers.
It has been a practice that school leavers drift to urban centers in search of job opportunities. However, constituencies that make up the nine provinces are resource owners. That said, Provincial Governments are indirectly, resource owners so they should engage in economic activities to provide job opportunities for the working age population in their provinces. Let us not put all our eggs in the national basket.
After 44 years of independence, we should now be able to define the manpower needs of our country. In the pre-independence era, scholarships were offered to successful candidates who would occupy jobs that are available for them when they graduate from universities.
That is not happening now because we are offering scholarships for students who do not have jobs to come back to. In view of that we must establish a general consensus plan, where our training for human resources development can take us to. It is only those who do not know where they are going can afford to travel without a map.
I believe the economic impact of COVID19 was exacerbated by the country’s lack of proper management for its natural resources. The country loses money in the millions, when raw materials like mineral ores, logs and fish are exported direct to overseas markets. Mining and logging industries should be governed by well documented set of compliances that the national government, provincial government, resource owners and the company concerned must comply with.
Failing that only the Logging or Mining Company benefits from the operation while all the other three parties are only regarded as incidental beneficiaries who do not seem to have legal rights to anything from the operation. This is especially true for the resource owners.
I think the country should have a stable economy and unemployment should be reduced greatly if all raw materials are processed in the country. The dilemma of exporting raw materials to overseas markets cost the country both money and job opportunities. Provincial Governments and Resource owners should be encouraged to engage in processing of raw materials in their own areas.
Now, lawlessness continues to affect the life of the people in the villages and communities. The recurrence of domestic violence, rapes and abuses of girls and women is happening everywhere, even in homes that we do not expect it to happen. This shows that we have failed to address the combination of behavior and cultural attitudes of perpetrators.
It also shows that the 16 Days of Activism against Gender- based violence that we celebrate every year from 25 November to 10 December does not impact the society. I think awareness alone is not enough. What is required is better-informed and pragmatic responses from all stakeholders including women and girls that touch the hearts of perpetrators.
Another issue is the recurrence of an undesirable attitude from some close relatives that dehumanize daughters or granddaughters. The incest us practice is destroying the cultural equilibrium and what is regarded as ‘normal life’ within the family.
The effects show a range of attitudinal behaviors that create emotional, physical and perceptional response to life. And I think, Lawlessness continues to happen not because people choose to randomly commit crimes but also because law enforcing agencies are not enforcing the law.
When communities are weak in their moral and ethical standing, they start to develop ‘a no care attitude’ towards respect for relationships, and so lawlessness and chaos become the results.
Many members of our communities, in the urban areas, do not see the family as the center of the society and that precipitates a life-style that develops within families. After having three, four or five children, husbands and wives still want to socialize by themselves in pubs and night clubs, and leaving the children alone at home.
In some families, it is the husband that goes out all the time, leaving the wife and children at home. This leads to extra-marital affairs that affect family life, especially the innocent children.
When the family is not together, there is disconnection and the bond in the family is weakened, thus affecting the acceptable norms, ethics and moral values.
To strengthen family life, parents and children need to spend times together, eating meals together and spending holidays together. Family members should be closer to each other to prevent conflicts from getting in the way of everyone’s life.
The presence of both parents is very important in the life of the children. To the children, parents mean love, trust, care and discipline. Togetherness with disciplined parents, is important in keeping the family together.
And now I am pleased to announce that His Majesty King Charles III has approved the following 2023 New Year’s Awards.
Appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire:
ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
To be an Ordinary Officer of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order:
For services to the Business sector and to Community Development.
To be an Ordinary Member of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order:
For services to Education and to the Community.
God save the King and God Save Solomon Islands from community to community.
Sir David Vunagi, GCMG KStJ