Speech by the Honourable Prime Minister, Hon. Manasseh Damukana Sogavare, MP

 

“Moving Forward in Unity to Build a Stronger Nation”

Sunday 7th July 2019, Given on Monday 8th July 2019 41st  INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATIONS

 

Good morning Solomon Islands and Happy 41st Independence Anniversary celebrations. Today Solomon Islanders across this beloved nation of ours are celebrating this momentous occasion. I acknowledge Solomon Islanders living in other countries who are also celebrating our 41st Independence Anniversary.

I also acknowledge some of our people who are not able to join us today in our celebrations for various reasons including those in our hospitals and those who are incarcerated, our thoughts and prayer are with you.

As we celebrate our independence let us not forget those who have come before us. We are here today because of their vision, commitment, sacrifice and service to our country. I pay my respect and homage to you.

41 years ago, this day, we gained our independence. Our theme for this year’s independence is “Moving Forward in Unity to build a stronger Nation”.

Self-Reflection since independence

When we gained ‘political independence’, our country was largely undeveloped. It pains me to say  41  years on,  not much had changed. Past governments have struggled for positive change  with  limited success. I believe we failed because we neglected the importance of ‘waking the national consciousness’ of our people to build this nation. We drove the development agenda – but left our people behind. I suppose this was what our first Chief Minister, the late Solomon Mamaloni implied when he said that, “Solomon Islands is a nation conceived but never born”.

This aphorism provides good food for thought in reflecting on our journey so far and envisioning a way forward. However, if indeed our nation was conceived but never yet born, then I bid us all ‘our national consciousness and pride, to uphold our collective moral duty to give birth to our country in unity to make it a stronger nation’. I strongly believe that we cannot progress far if we do not have this nationalistic pride in us as Solomon Islanders.

We have endured a lot since our independence especially the challenging times over the past two decades. I need not remind us of what we came through. However, not all of us remember our darkest days during the civil unrest which happened 20 years ago.

For more than 50% of our population who are under 20 years of age today, you would have only heard stories about the pain, the challenges and tragedies the country went through at the time. For some of us the experiences were real, and it seemed like it was only yesterday. Fellow citizens we must never allow ourselves to go through such experiences again. We are better than that. There is more that unites us than divides us.

Fellow citizens, this country was not built by elected leaders alone. This country was and will continue to be built by all of us – fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters,  people  from  all  walks of life – our fore-bearers, the current generations and future generations. We all have and will continue to be the building blocks for our beloved nation. Nation building is our individual and collective responsibility to this country and the responsibility of the  generations that will come after us.

However, this understanding of nation building still eludes our national consciousness even to this day. For example, the election of the Prime Ministers had often been peaceful in the first two and half decades after independence. However, since the 2006 April Riots, this has changed. Most recently the election of the Prime Minister was met with some public disorder. People took to the streets to demonstrate their opinions.

Whilst I respect their right to freedom of expression, it must be unequivocally stated that these rights are not absolute. Our individual and collective responsibility under the Constitution should guide our actions and due processes and the rule of law must be respected. We all know what happened in the past when we take the law into our own hands.

Our young generation who constitute our future, need God’s wisdom and our guidance. Our young generation must learn to be responsible citizens. Parents, helping to mould our children to be responsible citizens is our first and foremost responsibility. The state too has a responsibility in putting systems in place to assist in guiding our young generation.

I humbly call on all who are responsible for providing guidance, mentoring and leadership to our young generation to do so with the greatest of urgency. This includes the current government  and  its  various institutions. We must leave  behind  a  legacy  we  can  all  be proud of – a country with a strong economy, good infrastructure and a robust service delivery system that will infuse our young generation with national consciousness and good citizenship that will promote, uphold and respect others for the greater good of all.

Duties as a citizen

Fellow citizens, we do not have to go far to be reminded of our duties as Citizens of our beloved country. On that note I would like us to reflect on the preamble of our Constitution (and I quote) …

“We the people of Solomon Islands, proud of the wisdom and the worthy customs of our ancestors, mindful of our common and diverse heritage and conscious of our common destiny, do now, under the guiding hand of God, establish the sovereign democratic State of Solomon Islands;

As a basis of our united nation DECLARE that –

  • all power in Solomon Islands belongs to its people and is exercised on their behalf by the legislature, the executive and the judiciary established by this Constitution;

  • the natural resources of our country are vested in the people and the government of Solomon Islands;

AGREE AND PLEDGE that –

  • our government shall be based on democratic principles of universal suffrage and the responsibility of executive authorities to elected assemblies;

  • we shall uphold the principles of equality, social justice and the equitable distribution of incomes;

  • we shall respect and enhance human dignity and strengthen and build on our communal solidarity;

  • we shall cherish and promote the different cultural traditions within Solomon Islands;

  • we shall ensure that participation of our people in the governance of their affairs and provide within the framework of our national unity for the decentralisation of power;

AND for these purposes we now give ourselves this Constitution.”

(End of quote)

 

People of Solomon Islands we all have a solemn duty to uphold and protect our country, our people and our natural resources. As  your  Prime Minister and Servant, I too have a duty to this country, and  this is reflected in our national motto “TO LEAD IS TO SERVE.”

 

As a Christian country, our first duty is to God. Following that, our next duty is to uphold and abide by our National Constitution and respect its ideals, values and institutions. We must respect and honour our National Flag and the National Anthem.

Our National Constitution, National Flag and National Anthem are the embodiment of national unity. They are the bedrock upon which this country is built, and it will continue to motivate and inspire us as we move forward in unity to build a stronger nation. In this regard, from this moment forward, my office will commence the practice to raise our National Flag and sing our National Anthem on the first working day of every month. I hope every ministry, schools and provincial government to follow suit.

We also all have a duty to uphold and protect the sovereignty, our unity and the integrity of Solomon Islands from forces both foreign and

domestic. This is an individual and collective duty of all citizens of our beloved country. 20 years ago, our sovereignty, unity and integrity were seriously tested through the civil unrest of our own making. Our nation was brought to its knees. Some even referred to us as a failed state. Those were some of the darkest days out country had seen.

By the grace of God and through the timely assistance of others in the region in the form of RAMSI we managed to pull through. During those darkest days very few of our donors and development partners stood with us as true friends and supported our country financially.

The preamble to our Constitution also remind those in leadership positions to uphold the principles of good governance in the exercise of our leadership responsibilities.

Servitude – in line with our national Motto … ‘To Lead is To Serve’ in upholding and protecting our country and our sovereignty is what is  called for  in the exercise of  our  leadership responsibilities,  at all levels  of leadership. We must endeavour not be the generation that in anyway compromise our sovereignty, the  future  of  our  nation,  and  the  future of the generations that will follow our footsteps.

Fellow citizens, it is our duty to promote and protect harmony, unity and nationhood amongst all citizens of Solomon Islands regardless of race, colour, ethnicity, religious beliefs, language, political and other ideologies. This duty and its associated values and principles are enshrined in our National Constitution which requires us to be …

“mindful of our common and diverse heritage and conscious of our common destiny.”

These values  are  further  expounded  in  the  Book  of  Philippians  Chapter  2, versus 3-6 and I quote … “Do not do  anything  from  selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble towards one  another,  always  considering  others   better   than  yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ  Jesus had. He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God …”.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are our yardsticks as Christians and as Citizens in our God-given country. If these are the values and qualities our National Constitution and our Lord Jesus Christ expects of us, then we must do any less. They will provide the platform for us to be united as we go forward to build a stronger nation. We must respect each other’s way of life, and in doing so learn to appreciate our diverse heritage. We only have one life to live, let us live it right.

Our Christian faith, value and diversity in culture, heritage and tradition define who we are as individuals and collectively as a nation. They define our character and underpin our integrity as people and as a nation.

Our diverse heritage must be celebrated because it tells us that we are a  country  of  islands  separated  by  sea  but  connected  by  history,

tradition,  blood ties,  inter  marriage,  the church and the government.

Our common heritage and our faith in our creator are the glue that bind us together culturally and spiritually.

Duties as Custodians of our country’s Natural Resources.

Fellow citizens, God entrusted us with the Custodianship of our natural resources – our land and forests, our  seas  and  rivers,  our  terrestrial  and undersea minerals, and the air around us. Therefore, we must not only exploit but also protect our natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and seas for future generations.

The recent oil spill in Rennell was an issue that affected our environment. It even attracted international attention. The ongoing water crisis that is currently affecting our city has been attributed to logging upstream. The public had been criticising the government for all of this. I do acknowledge those criticisms. However, I do want to reiterate it here that protecting our environment is an individual and collective duty. We have laws in place that gives statutory powers to senior government officials.

Those who are vested with statutory powers must be cautious they do not abuse those powers vested on them when exercising their powers in granting of the relevant permits and licences. I am also conscious that there are instances when political influence can be used to expedite the process. We must all operate within the boundaries of the law and have regard to due process.

I do note that our people in rural areas are pressed for  money – however  I encourage caution because once our forest  resources  are  gone,  we  have condemned our children and their  children to an existence devoid  of some natural resources they  should  have a right to enjoy but  would  no longer do.

The DCGA is committed to find ways to lift the livelihood of people living in our rural setting to ensure it is more conducive through increased access to services and innovative revenue generating activities for people in our villages throughout the country.

I know it is quite expensive for our people in the rural areas to make a living on fishing, copra, cocoa and subsistence farming.

The geographical set up of our country makes it a challenge for those in the rural areas to bring their produce to sell. This is an area that  past governments have struggled with.

Moving forward

At this juncture I would like to touch on some of  the plans  that DCGA  has in place without pre-empting DCGA’s policy statement that I hope  will be launched later this month. As I have already indicated, the geographical distribution of our Islands ‘calls for innovative approaches to infrastructure planning and development that not only address social and economic constraints but one that demonstrates inclusivity and a whole of country focus so that no single province is left behind’.

We need to invest in infrastructure that can link our people in remote areas to urban centres in provinces, and to Honiara. We need to invest in a network of roads, bridges, wharves and airports to link all provinces to markets and drive our economy as stated in the Townsville Peace Agreement that was signed almost 20 years ago but as yet unfulfilled.

Putting in place a policy platform aimed at addressing the unmet development aspirations of our provinces over a defined period is a top priority for the DCGA. As part of its comprehensive policy agenda over the next four years, the DCGA is working on an innovative initiative

that will to link up to 74 % of the country’s population and 37 constituencies in its first phase and all 50 constituencies and 100 percent of our population at the completion of its second phase.

This initiative is currently known as the Solomon Islands Sea and Road Initiative or the National Transport Core.

Phase 1 of this initiative will focus on extending roads and bridges in Guadalcanal, Malaita and the Noro-Seghe road, and includes the development of the Bina Harbour International Seaport and Fish Processing Facility.

Seghe and Bina Harbour will be connected to Honiara via dedicated daily ‘roll-on-roll-off ferries’ that will have capacity to transport vehicles including trucks loaded with cargo to be delivered to Honiara and Vice- versa. Phase two will extend this infrastructure development in particular the development of proper wharfs in all provinces to accommodate the expansion of this service.

So, the question is … “is this another veiled promise? Will it happen this time? what is so different now that this will actually be delivered? How can we be sure it is not just another lip service?”

Let me answer these questions by informing the nation that this is not another empty promise. My government has already secured commitment to conduct an economic and feasibility study of the concept within the 100-day programme of the government. Following the study, we will develop a strategy to mobilise the resources needed to realise this innovative and transformational initiative for our country.

Our growing population is putting a lot of pressure on this country’s service delivery. If we do not decentralise development to our provinces, we will have a repeat of what happened in 1998 except it will be much

larger, and the scale of what might occur will make what occurred in 1998 appear insignificant.

Just last Friday I launched the 2019 Population census and the current population statistics were frightening – I must share these with you.

Current statistics show the dependency ratio is about 85, which means that for every 100 people of working-age, 85 of them are dependent, or we can simply say only 1 out of every 5 people is gainfully employed or  4 in 5 people is dependent (inclusive of people with disability). This dependency ratio is extremely high. It needs to reduce if our country is going to prosper.

Current population projections indicate we will surpass the 1 million people mark by 2031, making Solomon Islands the second most populated country in the Pacific at that point. We would overtake Fiji and be second to Papua New Guinea in population terms. It is also projected that at current population growth rate, our population will reach 1.37 million people by 2050, roughly double our current estimated population.

These population figures mean that in the next 31 years to  2050, Solomon Islands will produce another 600,000 to 700,000 people. We currently produce 50 births every day, equivalent to 2 classrooms every day, or 1 new primary school every week (350 births) or one new primary and secondary school every 2 weeks (700 births). Our current annual births of 18,000 is more than the total population of Cook Islands and Niue put together.

These are frightening statistics.  The serious question that needs  to be asked is … if we are struggling with the current  population   of below 700,000 people today? How will the country support a population that is double our current population in 30 years’ time?

How can we prepare a development platform that will support this future population?

Never before has the need to act is greater or more urgent. Hard decisions will have to be made – decisions premised on what is  best  for the people of Solomon Islands today and long into the future. Decisions that will not compromise our sovereignty as an independent country. Decisions that are representative of the will of the people in Solomon Islands and made on Solomon Islands’ own terms and conditions.

Fellow citizens, decisions such as those I have described require a participatory and collective approach involving all sectors of our communities including our customary landowners, provincial governments, government ministries, and importantly our bilateral and multilateral partners.

I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our customary landowners to be part of the solution going forward. Please do not let land disputes stand in the way of major national and provincial projects that will benefit all, especially you the land and resource owners. Please help us help you.

To our development partners – bilateral and multilateral let me say this. Solomon Islands will not be where it is now without your commitment and your help. As we move forward, I invite you all to be partners in the solutions proposed in the DCGA policy platform that we hope to launch later this month.

I want to say thank you for your  assistance over  the  years.  I  also ask  you to be genuine in your partnership with us going forward, assisting  and helping us achieve our development aspirations  as  articulated  by our people.

I invite you all to work with us over the coming months to explore and agree a modus operandi that provides win-win outcomes for you and Solomon Islands and a partnership that is underpinned by the principle of ‘sustainable and durable partnership’ that will accommodate our development aspirations within the next four years.

Fellow citizens, the sustainable development of our country needs more than just a focus on Infrastructure . Our people must have access to finance so that they can engage in money generating activities. In this regard I am pleased to say that DCGA is on track with the re- establishment and operationalisation of the Development Bank of Solomon Islands which will open its doors for business soon.

We are about to appoint the interim Board. Establishment of DBSI will enable our people in the rural areas to have access to loans at low interest rates. We will also invest in a support structure to support our local entrepreneurs have access to financial loans from DBSI as well as supporting successful applicants in managing and reporting on their loans.

We will invest in financial literacy and management skills through partnership with relevant institutions to assist entrepreneurs master skills needed to run and manage a business effectively. DCGA will make sure that our local entrepreneurs are provided with the necessary training and support.

Fellow citizens let me now dwell a little on the progress in our fight against corruption. I am happy to inform the nation that the DCGA is in the process of appointing Commissioners to the Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption. We have appointed the Nominations Committee as required by the Act.

We are confident the Committee will make its recommendations to the Governor General within the 100 days programme of the government. We are confident of the Commission being appointed have an office established before the end of this year. We have also commenced the process of reviewing the National Anti-corruption strategy which will form the basis for the new National Anticorruption Strategy.

I would like to acknowledge the support that has been rendered to us by our bilateral and multilateral partners in this fight against corruption. Let me renew the call for your continued support as we seek to further consolidate our capacity to fight corruption in Solomon Islands.

Tribute

As I draw to a  close,  let me  pay my deepest respect and  tribute to  all  our public servants for your service to our people and country. In particular I thank our people who are at the front lines of our nation’s services provision – our police and correctional  services  officers, teachers, doctors, nurses, officers of the court, officers from our border agencies and foreign affairs. I applaud  your  commitment  and  sacrifice in the service of our country.

I also extend my appreciation to your families – without whom your ability to serve can be compromised – so I thank the wives, husbands, children and extended families for contributions to our nation’s development through your loved ones. Political government  come  and  go every four years. The  public  service  is  the  permanent  architecture for continuity of government. You are the  vanguards  of  this  country,  the tip of the spear in implementing government policy.

I also wish to pay my deepest respect and tribute to our churches. You are the moral compass of this country. Your continuous prayers and spiritual guidance are testament of our faith in God. Your role in nation building is invaluable.

To the private sector, your role in building and driving our country forward must be acknowledged. This country is indebted to your leadership and contribution.

To all fellow citizens, I can only say thank you to for your support and your contributions to this beloved country of ours.

In the words of Walter Reuther, “There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well”

Conclusion

In closing, let me once again wish you all a Happy 41st Anniversary celebrations on behalf of the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement.

Let me  close  with  a  quote  from  Paul’s  letter  to  the  Philippians  chapter  4, verses 6 and 7, and I quote …  “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus”.

Fellow citizens, it is customary to recognise the contribution of  individuals who unselfishly contributed to the good of society during Independence Day Celebrations through the Award of Independence Honours.

I now have the honour of announcing the recipients of the 2019, 41st Independence Honours and Awards as follows:

 

1. FOR CROSS OF SOLOMON ISLANDS
No.NomineeAwardCitation
1Fredrick Leve FakariiCSIFor services to the Public Service
2Joyce Marian BoykinCSIFor      Services       to      education community developmentand
3David Rankin-HuntCSIFor services to community development for re-designing the Orders for the Star and Cross of Solomon Islands
 

2. SOLOMON ISLANDS MEDAL

No.NomineeAwardCitation
1Lyn Maena RadeSIM

(Silver)

For         services DevelopmenttoCommunity
2Jay MakanaRukumanaSIM

(Silver)

For services in sport in the field of Boxing
3Hudson WakioSIM

(Silver)

For     services      in     Commerce Community Developmentand
4Peter Irobina KinitaSIM

(Silver)

For         services Developmentincommunity

 

Fellow citizens, representatives of Foreign governments and companies celebrating this day with us, I thank you all for your forbearance and attention.

May God Bless us all. May God bless our Beloved Solomon Islands, from shore to shore.