It is common in most villages in Solomon Islands, when someone died, relatives and friends of the deceased wrap up the get-together during the 10th day after the passing.
Yesterday was also the 10th day after the death of Dr. John Joseph Roughan.
Before sending this to press, my thoughts are with villagers throughout Solomon Islands, our Government, Churches, sister non-government organizations-local and overseas, and development partners, private business houses, learning institutions- formal and non-formal.
I do not forget the relatives of Dr. Roughan in New York and Are’Are- special attention to his son Paul, wife and children.
For those people who actually meet, plan, or work with him, it is a wonderful learning experience that has numerous descriptions.
At this juncture and on behalf of the SIDT family, it’s board, management, past now and future employees, partners at villages, regional and international arenas; I acknowledge all the respect paid to the founder of the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT).
On 4th February 2013, Mi tufala, stori, stori moa ia wanfala taem: It was Dr. Roughan and again it’s him talking. One might have known him through his writings, some through his memorable presentations and views, and some through others.
Briefly he examined the story of Gideon, “I have many plans, ideas, good plans. But I’m now old, I’m 83. You know, The Israelites were about to be at war with the Midianites. Israel does not match the might of the Midianites -hundreds of thousands of them. Interesting; note that the Lord chose an ordinary farmer, Gideon to fight the Midianites.
“The Good Lord told Gideon that he has too many men, and that he should send home those who were afraid. After when those who were afraid were sent home, the Lord say that Gideon still have too many men. Then comes the selection criteria of having them drunk from a stream, some leap like animals and 300 of them scooped water with their hands.
“The 300 have qualified to team up with Gideon. To the Lord, this is still too many. The might of the Midianites army still remain. If Israel won the war with many men, they will count on their number and the Lord’s name will not be honored.300 Israelites against the mighty Midianites!! Israel won the battle because of the Lord. They’ve marched around the Midianites camp. The weapons they have- Hones and Torches and under command, when these were used, drove the Midianite’s army to their fate. Israel won, the Lord is with them.”
I looked at him, he seemed to regret his wrinkling hands, and tired legs as he reminds me of the story of Gideon and his 300 men. My humble and small contribution “Be our Gideon, we will bear the Torches and the Trumpets (hones).” I’m thankful for the platforms he has laid and his invaluable contributions for our Country.
He further highlighted about narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor and acknowledges that this requires the meaningful participation of others, with the Good Lord on our side, we can succeed.
SIDT is the Vision, Instrument, and Product, Dr. Roughan dreamt, construct and produce. It’s goal, mission, aim, purpose, objective and ends mainly centered around and within improving village living standards for Solomon Islands; Strong Village=Strong Nation.
Dr. Roughan was transformed earlier before setting up SIDT through his previous life encounters. He grew up- a city kid and youth (New York), His theological upbringing and achievement as a Marist Priest, his acceptance to bound for the Solomon’s shores in 1958, years of learning with village people( in Areare, Buma (Malaita) and Wainoni (Makira + others), his relationship with the thinking people (eg Sir Peter Kenilorea, Lt. Willy Betu and David Kausimae) at the early stage after our Independence in 1978. These contribute eloquently to design what he think best for village audience and setting.
Only the boldest Solomon Islander/s can take on board another bold initiative at such an early stage of the country’s Government set up, yet 6th May 1982 shows that this young Nation at least sees something new emerging- SIDT’s birth, ie, 31 years ago. Dr. Roughan was 62 at that time.
He gave me a phone call one Friday afternoon in September 2013, stating that he was sick few days ago. His explanation about his health digs deep in me that I make a visit before 8:00 am the next day, terribly worried. There is a driving force behind.
Arriving at his residence, I greet those who were there- “good morning, and where’s John?” They passed on my request. It seemed the person passing on the message confused him because he came out quickly a minute later in full height offering loud smiles, so ordinary, so fatherly, and worth removing my worries. Defending myself- “I come to say good morning and just seeing you…” Sit down man! He said.
“I was expecting you yesterday evening.”
My excuse of not knowing his location and without a companion was justified with few nods; a warm welcome indeed for me and my crews.
While this is the first home visit, I brought to him the Story of Gideon and his 300 men, “John, Remember, you told me the story of how Gideon and his 300 men defeated the Midianites. The weapons they used- Torches and Trumpets.”
He listened attentively. If he recalled, I pledge SIDT’s commitment and of those who were transformed through his work. I know he does. And I believe that there are plenty a handful of individuals amidst institutions from various works of life have prevailed.
I caught up with people who shared their feelings about the loss. I tried to figure out when did they met, plan or work with Dr. Roughan.
Most of them never met, planned or worked with him consistently, however they were transformed. Goodness, what a lesson, it doesn’t mean then, meet plan or work with Dr. Roughan that makes one special, the reality is about being ‘transformed’ and being able to accept empowerment to align what we think we can contribute towards a sustainable Solomon Islands; to accept where the bottom-line is. For short, Dr. Roughan values the village setting and provides avenues and alternatives to have villages in Solomon Islands strengthened-improved.
Every indigenous Solomon Islander come from a village setting, it holds no weight when denying the factors that constitutes improvements for our very own foundation. More than 80 % of our people are village based.
Our resource-base is attached to the traditional tenure system- this again sounds village based. On these bases, confirms the importance of the village setting. Development alone is not about money, money is cannot be the substitute, it is important but only an addition.
I paid another visit, on 24th October 2013 before 9:30 am, this time he doesn’t reminds me of his health nor do I go to his house either.
Again, terribly worried and there was the driving force behind. I asked no one “where is John this time?” I was holding on to his feet, thought there is still earthly breath to be reconsidered. Someone at my back tapped me at my right shoulder- sorry it was a heart attack?
Only then I know he has undergone the Spiritual transformation. Silence, Unacceptable though, but have to accept and welcome the final lesson on that deathbed at the National Referral Hospital. Entrusted behind is the development approach to complement and sustain Solomon Islands social fabrics. The Lord gives and takes. I remain silent.
After closing the booth of the hearse vehicle, Monday 28th October at the SIDT tribute, before he proceeds further to the Holy Cross Cathedral and then to be laid beside his once beloved, at Tanagai cemetery, there is emptiness and the challenge to embrace the work started, reminds SIDT and everyone with high concern for village improvement, that trumpets are meant to be blown, and torches lit.
For the sake of our people: – there is the top and cross cutting priority for Good Governance, to empower a people that are meant to be happy, healthy and self-reliant. SIDT is pleased to share its wealth of experience to people, policy makers and practitioners for positive change. This calls for linkages across and within all levels.
Finally, to SIDT friends and supporters and colleagues -community development practitioners, we were told not to criticize but to be critical, to listen twice as much as we speak. If we want to be prominent institutions for our Nation in the various fields we engage in, we cannot work in isolation.
There are boundaries that need to be respected and we acknowledge these. The sustainability of village action plans is where more trumpet and torch bearers are needed most. To signal and lighten up the dark side of life that accommodates negligence for the common good we know we should have contributed towards.
If I have trumpets and torches without using them, it makes no difference with someone who has none. Dr. Roughan has lived his. People who were transformed will have to bear the weight of defending the reality behind village people’s well-being in this changing society. Yes of course- there are plenty that needs to be done, why should we leave?
I agree with Bishop Adrian’s conclusion as he read…and for Dr. Roughan… “May the Souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.” I say Amen.
Strong be the Solomon Islands villages – Long Live the Solomon Islands.
By Longden Manedika
Executive Director, SIDT