Update (25/07/10): my latest election update is available here.
On 22 June, the Governor General, Frank Kabui, officially announced that the election will be held on Wednesday, 4 August. Candidates have two weeks (until 7 July) to nominate for the election.
In the meantime, campaigning has begun in earnest, with policy announcements on a range of issues. Here are summaries and links to announcements made in recent weeks. (I previously posted on various campaign manifestos and policy announcements back in March.)
Here’s a list of the range of topics covered in the announcements:
- Decentralisation, rural development & RCDF
- Taiwan & China
- RAMSI and aid donors
- Democratic Party (SIDP) – its record & party list
- PAP’s priorities
- Others – gambling, tourism & SEZs
- Sri Ramon Quitales – RIP
Decentralisation, rural development & RCDF
The PAP President, Allan Kemakeza, announced that they would reduce the number of Ministries and slash the public sector payroll by 20% over four years in order to pay for decentralisation and rural development. Sir Allan said PAP plans to formulate nine provincial Development Councils through which the Rural Constituency Development Funding will be channeled. (Solomon Star, 28 June)
Sir Allan made similar announcements during a campaign stop in Thithiro village, Isabel, where he explained that the Development Councils would be responsible for planning and determining priority development in each provinces. The Councils would comprise National MPs from the province, members of the Provincial Executive and representatives of chiefs, women and youth groups. (Solomon Star, 12 May; see also similar statements in the Island Sun, 29 April; and from ‘PAP party lawyer’, Andrew Nori, Solomon Times, 29 April)
OUR party has frequently committed to decentralize economic development and reintroduce the ‘bottom-up development strategy’ previously pursued by the GCCG-Sogavare government. Mr Sogavare also used the party’s launch in Temotu to dust off a long-cherished policy on the establishment of Special Economic Zones, including a commitment of $36 million. (Solomon Times, 9 June)
And during the launch of the United Party (SIUP), the interim President, Joel Konofilia, proposed that nine Ministries be abolished and replaced with dedicated ministries for each of the provinces. (Island Sun, 28 June(a)) [Konofilia also committed to restrictions on land ownership by foreigners, with particular reference to Asians. (Island Sun, 28 June(b))]
By contrast, the leader of the People’s Congress Party, Fred Fono, opposed ‘decentralisation proposals’ that would re-direct rural funds to the provincial administrations. He argued that it would be direct the money through national ministries. (RNZI, 29 June)
In a similar vein, Democratic Party spokesperson, Matthew Wale, seems to have made a commitment to introduce legislation that would remove control of RCDF from MPs. (Solomon Star, 9 June)
President of Solomon Islands Party for Rural Advancement (SIPRA), Job Dudley Tausinga, launched its campaign on 17 June and announced that the party believed in development from the bottom upwards. He also stated that his party knows the risk associated with trade imbalances that have continued to mark the economic position of the country. (Solomon Times, 17 June)
At the launch of the newly established Rural and Urban Political Party (RUPP), President and outgoing Minister, Samuel Manetoali, announced that the party would promote rural development through the creation of ‘economic growth centres’ that were equipped with roads, airfields, wharves, storage facilities, utilities and a review of taxation arrangements. (Solomon Times, 14 June)
Taiwan & China
The leader of the National Party, Francis Billy Hilly, has said that if it comes to power, the party would cut ties with Taiwan in favour of mainland China. (Solomon Star, 26 June)
However, the leader of the People’s Congress Party, Fred Fono, has re-affirmed his support for Taiwan (Radio Australia, 29 June)
RAMSI and aid donors
OUR Party president, Manasseh Sogavare, says the party is right to be concerned about the influence of aid donors and the Regional Assistance Mission. He reportedly questioned the sustainability of aid programmes and stated that there are legitimate concerns about the powers and privileges accorded to RAMSI. (RNZI, 14 June)
Earlier, Mr Sogavare said that OUR Party would like to see aid money focussed on education, health and infrastructure development instead of being used in a way that allows donors to pursue other agendas (Solomon Star, 11 May). Shortly afterwards, he added that:
OUR Party will review the [Facilitation of International Assistance Act 2003] governing the operation of the intervention mission to clarify its role, functions, engagement plans and its programmes of action to ensure these activities are aligned with approved government policies and are consistent with the country’s laws. (Solomon Star, 21 May)
However, Mr Sogavare was also reported as saying that accusations that his party is anti-aid donor and anti-RAMSI are misconceptions of its genuine concerns about aid money and the intervention mission. (Solomon Times, 14 June; Solomon Star, 15 June)
By contrast, PAP President, Sir Allan Kemakeza, made the surprising claim that RAMSI is not an issue any more and therefore PAP does not have a policy on it. He further stated that RAMSI’s military and police operation in the country had already been scaled down. (Solomon Times, 29 June)
In the same report, National Party leader Billy Hilly said he was thankful for RAMSI’s support and the key test is whether RAMSI’s mandate is being achieved. (Solomon Times, 29 June)
Democratic Party (SIDP) – its record & party list
The leader of the Democratic Party, Steve Abana, launched its campaign by promoting its record as a member of the CNURA-Sikua government. In particular, he took credit for pushing the Political Party Reform Bill, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and proposals for an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). He also took responsibility for the downfall of the GCCG-Sogavare government. (Solomon Star, 8 June)
The SIDP has also released an initial list of 21 endorsed candidates. The list includes:
- Seven former CNURA ministers (David Dei Pacha, Mathew Wale, Peter Tom, Manasseh Malelanga, Stanley Sofu, Sam Iduri, Severino Nuaiasi)
- Four other former MPs/Ministers (Daniel Enele Kwanairara, Alpha Kimata, Alfred Ghiro, Walter Folotalu)
- Two provincial premiers (Edward Daiwo – Temotu, Timothy Johnson – RenBell)
- And several other well-qualified candidates like former Central Bank Governor, Rick Hou, former Deputy Solicitor General, Francis Waleanisia, and former Commissioner of Labour, Ronald Unusi
Sir Allan recently restated the PAP’s commitment to redesign the government budget to reduce the ‘oversized and ultra-expensive national government’ and promote decentralised serivce delivery. He also committed to the commencement of ‘progressive federalism’ under which more powers and resources are transferred to the rural population.
Other PAP priorities include: youth and women’s development, land problems, agriculture (especially cocoa and copra production), tourism development, free market policy and provide guarantees of security to investors (Solomon Star, 28 June)
Others – gambling, tourism & SEZs
The Solomon Islands Democratic Party (led by Steve Abana; also Secretary General John Keniapisia) wants to change the Gaming and Lotteries Act changed to reduce the social harm caused by casinos. (RNZI, 23 June)
Finally, Mr Sogavare committed $250 million towards the creation of a viable tourism industry during OUR party’s launch in Central Province. (Solomon Star, 18 May)
Sri Ramon Quitales – RIP
Business and political figure, Sri Ramon Quitales, passed away on 18 June. He was found in his home with stab wounds and with his house on fire. Police suggested that his death may have been suicide but I haven’t found any subsequent reporting to confirm this (Solomon Star, 21 June).
Quitales was an unusual character. (Note: much of the following is drawn from the Solomon Star article linked above and a fairly scathing but probably fair obituary published on the same day by Gina Maka’a.)
Originally from the Philippines, he had lived in Solomons for more than a decade and was a naturalized Solomons citizen. He first worked in Sols as a logging executive and was subsequently associated with several far-fetched business proposals, including a 20-storey building at Town Ground and a ‘Women’s Bank’ (which resulted in an on-air slanging match between Quitales and the head of the National Council of Women during an SIBC program). Apparently he also promised to build a five-star hotel on the Weathercoast.
He was also the Secretary General and a moving force behind the SoCred party (previously headed by Manasseh Sogavare) and had recently announced the establishment of the Solomons United Nationalist (SUN) party. One of his policy proposals (echoing earlier commitments made by SoCred) was to promote economic growth by passing legislation that would increase the country’s money supply. Some macroeconomics may have raised an eye-brow.