Update (25/07/10): I now have a complete list of parties contesting the 2010 election here.
I now count six new parties that have been established in the lead-up to this year’s elections. I mentioned five of them in an earlier post. The latest addition is the People’s Federation Party (Director General: Rudolf Henry Dorah, Solomon Star, 12/03/10).
We should also keep an eye out for two other groups that may get established before the election:
- In September 2009, the Malaita Maasina Forum announced that it was drafting a constitution for a new Malaita Political Party. The announcement was made by its General Secretary, William Gua, (Solomon Times, 17/09/09), and its spokesperson, Hudson Kwalea (RNZI, 03/09/09).
- And back in 2008, there was a brief scandal when it was suggested that up to 18 MPs (including several government ministers) were given an ultimatum to pay up borrowed monies or join a new political party – the Solomons National Alliance Party (SNAP, Solomon Times, 08/10/08). The Solomom Times report stated that SNAP had the ‘backing of wealthy Honiara businessman, Bobo Dettke’. According to Jon Fraenkel’s account of the 2006 election (p.173), Dettke was rumoured to have been a key player in the splinter group of mostly Guale MPs who set up camp at Pacific Casino Hotel after breaking away from the coalition at Iron Bottom Sound Hotel. Fraenkel states: ‘it was widely rumoured that the bills for their rooms and expenses … were being paid for by Dettke (reportedly at a cost of SI$2 million)’.
Election issues & campaign manifestos
The parties and candidates have begun announcing their various election manifestos and promises. Whilst it is unclear how much we can learn from these statements, they at least give some indication of what issues the candidates think are of concern to the electorate. Based on my casual reading of the online media, here is a sample of the issues that parties and candidates have raised so far:
- land issues,
- road services,
- access to finance,
- State Government,
- peace and reconciliation,
- delivery of services to rural people, and
I’ve listed below the policy positions expressed by four parties that I’m aware of.
1. OUR Party, led by Mannaseh Sogavare, has already held campaign launches in Honiara, Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Western and Malaita – a level of nation-wide campaigning that is perhaps unprecedented in Solomons’ political history. Key policy issues addressed by Sogavare include:
- Decentralization and bottom-up strategy: OUR part has frequently committed to decentralize economic development and reintroduce the ‘bottom-up development strategy’ previously pursued by Sogavare’s Grand Coalition for Change Government (GCCG, 2006-07).
- Foreign investment strategy: Mr Sogavare says OUR Party will move away from the ‘hands off leave it to the private sector strategy advanced by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’ and instead implement a foreign investment strategy ‘that will attract the right kind of investors into the country, targeting the strengths and potentials of the country in the rural areas’ (Solomon Times, 18/02/10).
- State Government: OUR Party has supported long-standing calls for the adoption of state government (Solomon Star, 20/02/10).
- Guadalcanal – return of alienated land: Sogavare assured the people of Guadalcanal of his party’s commitment to return all land alienated to original landowners (Solomon Star, 09/02/10).
- Guadalcanal – bona fide demands: OUR Party assured the people of Guadalcanal of its commitment to address the issues behind their outstanding bona-fide demands to the national government (Solomon Star, 10/02/10). (Note: the ‘bona fide’ demands have a long history going back at least to the 1980s and were often cited in the context of the 1998-2003 Tensions. For more details, see Jon Fraenkel, The Manipulation of Custom, Ch.3 and App.2.)
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission: OUR Party has stated that the current Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an example of the country taking an approach to peace and reconciliation that is overly academic, costly and ‘guided by foreign concepts’ (Solomon Star, 20/02/10). All reports on the TRC by the Solomon Times are available here.
- Western & Choiseul – spill-over effects of the Bougainville crisis: OUR Party has said that it recognises that the people of Western and Choiseul provinces have some outstanding claims with the government over the spill-over effects of the Bougainville crisis (Solomon Star, 20/02/10).
- Western Province – land and logging issues: OUR Party has acknowledged ‘extreme examples of gross injustice to people in the Western Province’ in relation to logging activities that resulted in only limited returns to the original landowners (Solomon Times, 16/02/10).
2. The People’s Power Action Party, headed by Robert Wales Feratelia, has announced plans to establish a ‘Micro-finance Bank for Solomon Islands’ because ‘currently the banking sector has placed a stigma on the poor, excluding their access to banking resources’. The new Bank would also ‘be the financial mechanism to properly coordinate the development funds allocated by the government to the constituencies, namely, the RCDF, the Millennium Goal Development Fund, the Micro Projects Fund, and Rural Livelihood Fund.’ (Solomon Star, 11/02/10)
3. The People’s Federaration Party says that it wants to address five ‘crises’ facing Solomons (Solomon Star, 12/03/10):
- An increasing impoverished rural population with deep seated land disputes threatening to wreak havoc on our economy,
- A rotten Westminster system abused by too many MPs for personal gain,
- An unbiased (sic) banking system that serves the rich at the expense of the poor,
- A leadership crisis; and
- The threat of climate change.
4. Finally, the President of the People’s Alliance Party (PAP), James Mekab, wants to improve roads through reform of the Department of Works and Engineering: ‘PAP sees this division as an engineering force for economic development for our country. PAP will bring dozens of well qualified engineering manpower to supervise the roads developments around our country’ (Solomon Star, 10/03/10).
Other election tidbits
Here are a few other interesting tidbits that I stumbled across whilst researching this post.
- New campaign techniques for the 2010 election: Evans Wasuka has written an interesting article in the March edition of Island Business magazine. Wasuka discusses some of the new campaign techniques that are already evident (such as OUR party’s plan to conduct launches in all nine provinces, and ASIP’s decision to broadcast its launch on national radio). He suggests that the increased party political campaigning may already be a response to the possible enactment of the Political Parties Integrity Bill.
- Family ties: Wasuka also points out that ASIP co-founder and former member for West Makira (2000-01), Jackson Sunaone (or Sunaune), is the brother of former Prime Minister late Solomon Sunaone Mamaloni. No doubt this is well known to most Solomon Islanders but I confess that I had missed this connection until now.
- The other MPs in OUR party: I was curious to know which other MPs had joined Manasseh Sogavare to found OUR party. A letter writer to the Solomon Star (06/03/10), Williamson Naiaboara, has identified at least seven of them: Manasseh Sogavare (East Choiseul), Patteson Oti (Temotu Nende), Bernard Ghiro (Central Makira), Japhet Waipora (West Makira), Peter Shanel (Central Guadalcanal), Isaac Inoke (West Honiara), Francis Zama (South New Georgia/Rendova/Tetepare).
- Another letter writer, Ricky Turi (10/03/10), has made some interesting comments about a possible candidate for West Honiara, Tran Namson, who apparently is the owner of Honiara Casino. In his letter, Turi states that: ‘In past elections, Namson reportedly backed his former associates, Charles Dausabea (Former MP of East Honiara) and the current member of Central Honiara, Nelson Ne’e.’