Opposition Leader Matthew Wale has reminded the government of the number of issues that need thorough attention, as the country looks to go into 2021 with a new policy direction.
In his speech during the sine die motion in Parliament, marking an end to the second session of the 11th Parliament house, Mr. Wale outlined issues which the Opposition see important for the government to consider, going into 2021 started with the country’s foreign relations front, where he points out that there is a lot of pork-barreling by major powers.
He said the geopolitical competition has become a source of tension in the country and allowing the interest of outside powers will be a threat to the nation’s unity.
Mr. Wale then added that there is a need for constitutional reform to prevent electoral deception and enable the people to choose their preferred PM.
The fact that some provinces want to break away, portrays inadequate policies with less focus on our people’s needs, like health and education but those that breed votes for money.
He went on to say, “The weakness in the way the RCDF mechanism is currently organized remains an issue with gapping gaps, gaping holes, that affect the proper representation of our people and delivering development services to our country.”
Regarding the issue on our nurses and other front liners, Wale said, government’s first resort should be a constructive and meaningful respectful dialogue.
Dialogue would have allowed the government to clearly demonstrate to the nurses why it is unable to meet their claims, adding that the suspension of a trade union and their leaders, in the absence of genuine dialogue, is evidence of intimidation.
On media, Wale cautioned that the media is a critical stakeholder in a democracy, even if leaders often find it very frustrating dealing with them, highlighting that a vibrant media is evidence of a vibrant democracy.
“We must not intimidate the media. We must protect them, as they are an essential pillar of our democracy. The decision to temporarily ban Facebook should be evidence-based.
“About 11 percent of Solomon Islanders including businesses use this media platform for business purposes and should not be punished for the sins of a few, referring to the proposed ban as simply is unfair and unjust,” said Hon. Wale.
Mr. Wale said that we are one people, very colorful people indeed and tolerant, joyful, caring, hardworking, and peace-loving people, noting that our diversity is truly a strength that we must be deliberate in cultivating.
Referring to concerns raised national unity being threatened, the Opposition Leader points out that the things that threaten our national unity are not the differing opinions that we have from and with each other, but how the government is unfair in serving the interest of few or when more resources are allocated to MPs in the government, depriving the rest of Solomon Islanders.
He said such disunity is facilitated when the government sides with loggers and miners against the interests of land and resource owners, and this act of crowding out of businesses that should be reserved for locals will suppress a vast majority of our people to remain very poor and a few people at the top become wealthy – that breeds discontent and threaten unity.
“Social, political, and economic injustice are the ingredients of disunity. The protection of our national sovereignty should be our priority. Our sovereignty is best protected when we do everything in our power to make our democracy strong,” Mr. Wale further added.
On the Government’s policy redirection front, Hon. Wale further points out that the policy on climate change and sea-level rise does not seem to portray any sense of urgency and focus.
He said resource allocations and the shallowness of planning for climate change and sea-level rise shows the government’s neglect and a lack of political will.
Wale went on to add, “The Policy redirection is vague and as such has not served the country well. Vague policy statements leave too much room for misinterpreting govt’s intentions and inevitably results in a lack of cohesive focus”.
He stressed that the economic policy must target inclusive sustainable growth, unfortunately, it is likely to see more of the same – the few at the top getting richer, and the vast majority of Solomon Islanders remaining poor, disempowered, and disenfranchised.
“Worse, it risks poverty widening in the population. With the population at more than 700,000 with a growth rate of 2.7% (the highest in the region), the demand for public goods and services will increase.
Further, the Opposition Leader highlighted that fiscal incentives to induce investment in the productive sectors will undoubtedly result in reduced government revenues, emphasizing the importance of Agriculture research and the need to ensure the Agriculture sector is vibrant.
On Covid-19, Hon. Wale reiterated that the government needs to ensure the virus does not spread to the rural communities since any community transmission would result in -10% growth in the GDP. This would be a very serious problem, in an already precarious situation, which must be avoided at all costs.
Wale then commented on the proposed changes to the Public Service, saying that the decision to right-sizing the public service, should not be on down-sizing. He also emphasized the need to consider reallocation and retraining so that experience that has been built up over the years would be targeted where it is most needed.
With regards to the country’s very own university, the Solomon Islands National University (SINU), Hon. Wale suggested that the Ministry of Education and SINU need to see if they can provide most, if not all of their course offerings online.
The ongoing difficulties with getting reliable cheap internet bandwidth after almost a year of the commissioning of the undersea cable are really baffling. Internet access is still slow and expensive.
“The SINU leadership crisis again is an obstacle to the university. And the lack of government leadership to resolve it has merely exacerbated the situation.
Looking at the forest and mines sectors, Wale stressed that the forestry and minerals policy desperately needs clear direction.
“Minerals are non-renewable resources and govt policy must aim to secure the highest possible returns to the country.
“The same must be said of the export of round logs that deprive Solomon Islanders of jobs from processing. Solomon Islands has foregone a lot of economic and social benefit from the utter mismanagement of this strategic resource, the gross negligence, and worse.
“However, perhaps the sunset condition of this industry will embolden the government to do the right thing by the people of these lovely Islands.
“As a leader, let us not be defensive as that would mean we are unrepentant of our roles in some of these issues. In fact, such diverse democracy like ours, it is good to embrace differences –that is critical to national unity and working together, not demonizing our own people,” Wale reminded.
On other issues, Wale also recommended the need to have a Health Insurance Scheme for the country.