Archive for May, 2010

Contest for Small Malaita

May 26, 2010

Rick Hou

It looks like the seat of Small Malaita will be hotly contested, with at least three prominent candidates to watch.

In mid-May, the Solomon Star reported that highly-regarded former head of the Central Bank, Rick Houwenipela (generally shortened to Rick Hou) has cut short his contract with the World Bank to contest the seat.

The head of the newly established People’s Federation Party and former foreign affairs official, Rudolf Henry Dorah, has also said that he has his eye on Small Malaita.

They will be challenging the incumbent MP and outgoing Minister for Foreign Affairs, William Haomae, who has held the seat in 1993-97, 1997-2001 and 2006-2010.

William Haomae

In 2006, Haomae faced 10 other contenders and eventually won with just over 20% of the vote (his nearest rival, Matthew Fakaia, won 17%). In 2001, however, both Haomae (2nd, 1124 votes or 17%) and Fakaia (3rd, 719 votes or 11%) were defeated by businessman Alex Bartlett (1941 votes, or 29%).

Around the time of his election, in the midst of the Tensions, Bartlett was also one of the leaders of the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF). In September 2004 he was charged by police (Moore 2004, p.214) and subsequently jailed; the seat then remained vacant until the following election. Before this occurred, Bartlett managed to hold three different portfolios. Initially he was Minister for Foreign Affairs but ‘became something of  a liability … when the United States refused to issue him a transit visa because the MEF was on a list of terrorist organisations’ (Moore 2004, p.179). Consequently, in 2003 he was shifted into Tourism and Aviation but by 2004, he had moved again, to Agriculture and Fisheries. Later, Bartlett was the subject of charges (later dropped) relating to the April riots in 2006.

Bartlett and Haomae have a long history – back in 1989, Haomae lodged the sole petition challenging Barlett’s victory in that election. His petition, like so many thereafter, was unsuccessful. Later in that term of parliament, Bartlett was embroiled in controversy when, in 1992, he and Finance Minister Christopher Columbus Abe purported to represent the Central Bank when they negotiated and signed a loan document for US$250 million without the Bank’s knowledge (Moore 2004, p.55).

Reference: Moore, C (2004) Happy Isles in Crisis, Asia Pacific Press

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The Party party – update

May 26, 2010

With the news today that the election will be held on Wednesday, 4 August, this seems a good time to update my tally of political parties. I am aware of 11 new parties, with a couple more in the wings and the possibility that up to six existing parties may also re-contest.

I have previously posted on the proliferation of new political parties on 15 February, 13 March and 17 April. Since my last post:

  • The Direct Development Party was launched by Dick Ha’amori (who was, until his recent dismissal, the Director of SICHE). The party, which counts veteran journalist and former MP and Minister Alfred Sasako in its ranks, has since announced its plans to turn SICHE into a university but has also been criticised by Tony Makabo (NPF CEO and General Manager) for failing to understand that workers in the informal sector are already entitled to make voluntary contributions to NPF.
  • The New Nations Solomon Islands Party was launched by Belani Tekulu (a businessman and one-time head of the Solomon Islands Indigenous Business Association). According to the OneTV report, its priorities included law and order, anti-corruption, infrastructure, land, education and health.
Here is my latest tally …

David Sitai, MP for East Makira

May 24, 2010

David Sitai

On 23 April, long-serving parliamentarian, David Sitai, announced that he will retire from politics at the end of the current term of parliament (SIBC, 23/04/10, subscribers only). When he steps down, Sitai will have served as the member for East Makira for six consecutive terms (from 1984-2010), making him one of the longest-serving MPs in Solomons’ political history, alongside Solomon Mamaloni, Francis Billy Hilly and Job Duddley Tausinga.

This post looks at Sitai’s achievements in parliament and as a Minister, reviews his background prior to entering politics and comments on his recent electoral performance. The post concludes with a survey of possible contenders for the seat of East Makira.

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The Billy Hilly govt (1993-94)

May 23, 2010

This post is the continuation of a profile of Francis Billy Hilly (the current Finance Minister and former Prime Minister). In my earlier post, I summarised his early political career from 1976-84 and the nine subsequent years he spent away from national politics.

This post discusses his return to parliament in the 1993 election, his subsequent appointment as Prime Minister, the policies his government pursued and finally the constitutional crisis in October 1994 that preceded Billy Hilly’s downfall.

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Finance Ministers of Solomon Islands

May 20, 2010

Snyder Rini, Finance Minister 2001-02, 2002-03 & 2007-10

With the recent dismissal of Snyder Rini as Finance Minister and his replacement by Francis Billy Hilly, I thought it would be interesting to try to list the Finance Ministers of Solomons.

After a bit of digging, I have found at least 23 appointments as Finance Minister from Wille Betu’s appointment in 1975 up until Billy Hilly’s appointment in 2010 – see the full list below.

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Election date – waiting, waiting …

May 15, 2010

The date for the 2010 Solomon Islands election has been decided and a recommendation sent to the Governor General, according to the Electoral Commissioner, Polycarp Haununu (Sololomon Star, 13/05/10, Island Sun, 12/05/10). However, the date won’t be announced until the Governor General returns from Taiwan on the 19th.

Mr Haununu has given us some clues, however. He states that the date is NOT the 29th of July as reported by Alfred Sasako, nor is it any of the other three dates that Sasako mentioned. (In an earlier post, I also claimed that voting would be held on 29 July so, based on the latest reports, I stand ready to humble pie …)

Election petitions

May 15, 2010

This post looks at election petitions that have been lodged by losing candidates following a general election or, occasionally, a by-election. I ran a search on ‘election petitions’ on the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) database for Solomon Islands and found court decisions for 31 petitions of national elections. I’m not certain that I’ve got a complete set but it is at least an interesting sample, available as a Word doc here.

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By-election data – updated

May 15, 2010

In an earlier post, I provided a list of all the by-elections and parliamentary vacancies in Solomons between 1973 and 2010. The list was only to the best of my knowledge at the time and I have since updated it slightly, so I have posted revised data in a Word doc here.

In summary (to the best of my knowledge):

  • There have been 31 parliamentary vacancies since 1973 (26 since independence).
  • Of these vacancies, 14 (45%) have occurred in the last two terms of parliament.
  • The main causes of vacancies are death (8), resignation (8), jail (6) and election petition (3).
  • These vacancies have resulted in 26 by-elections since 1973 (21 since independence). In the remaining cases, the seat has remained vacant until the following election.

Profile – Francis Billy Hilly

May 3, 2010

Francis Billy Hilly

In the lead-up to the election, I thought it would be interesting to write profiles for some prominent MPs or candidates. I’ve decided to start with a former Prime Minister and the newly appointed Minister for Finance, Francis Billy Hilly. He’s had a long career, so I’ve split write-up into two posts. This first post covers his early political career and along the way, discusses the ‘Western breakaway movement of the late 1970s and also the downfall of the Kenilorea government in 1981.

Note: the second post, recounting Billy Hilly’s reign as PM, is now available here.

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