ON Monday 15th September 2014, Peter Forau expressed his opinion that Dr Jimmy Rodgers is PM material and that Marovo Constituency should elect Dr Rodgers in the upcoming General Election.
Upon being elected Dr Rodgers should put his hand up for the PM’s post. Mr Forau wrote from Port Vila, the capital of the Republic of Vanuatu.
I see no issues with what Peter Forau said in his letter to the Editor.
Every right and reasonable-minded Solomon Islander knew that Peter Forau was just expressing his opinion as a Solomon Islander.
His station in life or what he does or the office he occupies is immaterial to what Peter Forau expressed given that he never used his official title.
What surprises me most is the manner in which the PMO Press Office responded.
In Tuesday’s paper the PMO responded with the title: “Director-General of MSG Peter Forau’s accusation of PM and PMO staff”.
Firstly, Peter Forau wrote and signed off his opinion by stating his own name. He never signed off his letter to the Editor by using his official title as the Director-General of the MSG.
To right-minded and reasonable Solomon Islanders, he was just expressing his opinion as a private citizen of Solomon Islands and not that of the MSG to give the PMO Press Office the excuse to tarnish his record as the Director-General of the MSG.
Unfortunately, this simple fact never crossed the PMO Press Office. Instead the PMO fired back at Peter Forau and dragged the MSG into this debate.
If Peter Forau signed off by stating that he is the DG of MSG, then it would be appropriate for PMO to respond the way it did.
If a simple differentiation of this nature cannot be understood by the PMO Press Office, then I am sorry to say that Peter Forau characterisation that the current PM has “allowed himself to be misled by stupid citizens working in the PM’s office” may hold some truth.
Secondly, the PMO Press Office failure to differentiate between writing as a private Solomon Islander and being the DG of the MSG is evident in the PMO laughable response that Peter would not say what he said against the “officials from Prime Minister’s Office in PNG, Vanuatu or Fiji”.
In other words and according to PMO Press Office, if Peter Forau cannot criticise officials in the PM office of PNG, Vanuatu and Fiji, then he has no right to say the same things against his own PM and government! Oh my God, since when Peter Forau, as a Solomon Islander, cannot criticise his own government?
As a Solomon Islander, Peter Forau cares more about the future of this nation than, say, Fiji, PNG or Vanuatu.
Therefore, being the Director- General of the MSG does not mean that Peter Forau’s unalienable rights to contribute to the political discourse of his beloved nation are extinguished or frozen for the duration of his tenure as the DG of MSG.
Thirdly, can the PMO Press Office tell me what “law” Peter Forau, as a Solomon Islander, broke when he wrote to the local news paper and expressed his personal opinion?
How can Peter Forau “meddles with domestic affairs” when he wrote to the local papers in his personal capacity as a Solomon Islander.
My understanding is that Peter Forau hails from the tiny outpost of Tikopia Island. Tikopia Island itself is part of VATUD Constituency within Temotu Province and Temotu Province is part of Solomon Islands.
Being a citizen of Solomon Islands, Peter Forau cannot be said to be meddling in the domestic affairs of Solomon Islands.
There are only two possibilities if the PMO Press Office claim is right.
Firstly, Tikopia Island or Temotu Province has become an independent nation of its own; therefore, Peter Forau is an alien that should not poke his nose into the domestic affairs of Solomon Islands.
The second possibility is that by becoming the DG of MSG, Peter Forau is not an individual but a State (a nation) of its own. He, therefore, cannot say anything untoward against Solomon Islands.
If the above two possibilities does not make sense to your readers then it simply means what the PMO Press Office said was purely and utterly non-sense!
It is clearly evident that PMO Press Office cannot differentiate when the likes of Peter Forau expresses his personal opinion from his official position as the DG of MSG.
If the highest office in the land cannot see the simple difference in this issue then the characterisation that we have some “stupid citizens” in the PMO office may hold some truth!
I do not think the South Koreans would mind if Ban ki Moon occasionally criticise the South Korean government in his capacity as a private citizen of South Korea.
In fact, they would appreciate comments from their overseas-based and high profile citizens. Only tyrants will find criticism from its own citizens as unwelcoming and a source of irritation that must be eliminated at all cost.
There are also other parts of the PMO response worth commenting.
According to the PMO Press Office, Peter Forau was wrong to publicly campaign for someone to be PM when the official campaign period has not been declared by the GG.
As a South Guadalcanal person, I find this statement from PMO hard to believe. For us in South Guadalcanal, we know that two officials from the PMO are contesting for the seat of South Guadalcanal formerly held by David Dei Pacha in the upcoming General Election.
One of them has been supplying tonnages of rice to voters in South Guadalcanal as though South Guadalcanal had been hit by a mass famine in clear breach of the Electoral laws (bribery and treating) of this country.
The other should be in our constituency as we speak!
And here we have the PMO Press Office telling this nation to follow the law when its own officers are breaking the same laws!
Instead of asking the likes of Peter Forau to check their “own backyard”, why don’t you check yours first PMO?
I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised at the level of contradiction you are spilling out!
Furthermore, the PMO is saying that MSG has been a failure because of Peter Forau’s leadership. That is non-sense and the PMO Press Office appears not to fully understand the workings of regional and international organisation such as the MSG. It is advisable for the PMO Press Office to consult the MSG treaty and see who makes important decisions. Is it the Director-General or the Leaders of MSG during the Leaders Summit?
In fact the PMO Press Office states that the MSG Secretariat “is answerable to the MSG Government”.
That means if Peter Forau’s tenure as DG of MSG is somehow considered as a failure or “mixed success” as the PMO puts it, then the blame is squarely on the PM of PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Solomon Islands, not on Peter Forau and the MSG Secretariat.
How quickly the PMO Press Office forgets this when itself pointed out the decision-making structure of MSG is mind-boggling to say the least.
Or is it the case that the right hand does not know what the left hand had written down so that PMO press releases are full of contradiction these days?
Finally, a word on the PMO so-called lobbying to have Dr Jimmy Rodgers as the Secretary-General of Pacific Island Forum.
Even before the official delegation left for Palau to attend the PIF meeting, some of us quietly noted that Dr Jimmy Rodgers would not get the top regional post.
It was clear to some of us that PNG had the upper hand given that they have been lobbying for this post for a long time.
PNG had been dispatching their foreign affairs officials and High Commissioners to all the regional capitals lobbying for their candidate while PMO was asleep at the wheels.
And with PNG overflowing with LNG money, Solomon Island had no chance to ensure Dr Rodgers got the top regional post.
Hard to believe that the lay person on the streets of Honiara knows what our PNG wantoks were doing-lobbying for their candidate when those at the top of the political decision-making at PMO seems fully ignorant of this simple fact!
At the eleventh hour we sent a bunch of PMO officials to attend the PIF and called that “lobbying for Dr Rodgers to be PIF SG”.
The PMO justified the costly delegation by running countless press releases of our PM and other PMO Officials doing the so-called lobbying to have Dr Rodgers as the next SG leading up to the vote.
I am no expert on these matters but one thing that should be obvious to the PMO was that no other country had indicated that it would vote for the Solomon Islands candidate (Dr Rodgers) even before the PMO delegation left for Palau.
That should be a good indication that Dr Rodgers would not get the top job, yet the PMO stubbornly pressed on.
The PMO wanted us to believe that they had a good fight to the end to give Dr Rodgers a chance. The PMO forgets time old rule called the “Pacific Way” in which decisions are by consensus.
Generally this means that you gauge the mood from other member countries and seek their views. Once it is clear that you will not get the necessary vote, you throw in the towel and move on.
What our PM and his officials were trying to do in Palau was not the Pacific Way. It is hoped that their experience in Palau should be a learning curve for those PMO novices.
Before I finish I note that the quality of PMO press releases have gone from bad to worse. No offence to anyone but are there trained journalist in the PMO Press Office these days?
By ANDREW D. MUAKI