- Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands survived 2009 reasonably peacefully, with several challenges and achievements. As in 2008, citizens continued to call for decisive and visionary leadership throughout the year. Major issues that warrant some coverage in this review include the Fee Free Education policy; the continuation and conclusion of former Solomon Islands Attorney General Julian Moti’s child sex case; 2009 entitlements for members of Parliament; workers’ strikes (or their intentions for industrial action); by-elections; ministerial reshuffles and election of the new governor-general; the ongoing tug-of-war on the Political Parties Integrity Bill; double standards used by the Solomon Islands government in regional and international politics; lawlessness; and central-provincial government collaborations. By the end of 2009, the focus was once again on national elections scheduled to take place around August 2010.
The Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement (cnura) government in late 2008 adopted the Fee Free Education policy. This was launched and implemented in 2009 despite a number of cautions. For instance, the premier of Choisuel province, Jackson Kiloe, warned that the policy could promote more dependency on aid, as donors were requested to foot the bill (sto, 2 Jan 2009). The implementation of this policy as a priority was reflected in the cabinet’s approval of the largest sector budget in 2009, with a 24 percent increase in the recurrent budget and 12 percent decrease in the development budget compared to 2008 (mehrd 2009, 3). New Zealand Aid (NZAid) and the Republic of China (ROC) provided additional funds to implement the policy. By June 2009, the prime minister acknowledged that the policy had problems, and again in September he admitted that the Fee Free Education policy was challenging, although it relieved the burden on parents and guardians. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (mehrd) revealed that a major drawback of the policy was that it led to the misunderstanding that parents were no longer required to contribute toward school expenses (mehrd 2009, 44). Moreover, the sustainability of funds for this bold move by government has yet to be determined, although si$66 million was allocated for it in 2010 (sto, 18 Jan 2009). (si$1 equals approximately us$8.33.)
The Julian Moti case continued to be featured in political commentaries throughout 2009. With the toppling of the Grand Coalition for Change (gcc) government, the installation of cnura government, and Moti’s eventual deportation to face child sex charges in Australia, the issue has not [End Page 459] really disappeared from political commentaries. However, the deportation has tremendously improved relations between Australia and Solomon Islands. In late August 2009, Moti filed a summary of grounds to support his application for a permanent stay of proceedings with the Queensland Supreme Court. One point Moti insisted on, among others, was the allegation that the Australian government did not want him to play any part in the governing of Solomon Islands. Moti’s lawyers referred to the payment of si$1.2 million to witnesses over a two-year period and a sms (short message service) text sent by a witness to an Australian federal agent as evidence. In the sms text, a female witness indicated that if her conditions were not met, then she was being “used as a tool by the Australian government for political and neocolonial reasons” (ssn, 22 Aug 2009). Moti’s defense lawyers also insisted that the Australian government had assisted the cnura government to unlawfully return him to face charges in Australia (ssn, 27 Aug 2009).
Late in September, the Queensland Supreme Court heard that witnesses to Moti’s case called by counsel had been threatened with termination from employment if they gave evidence (isn, 22 Sept 2009). The Solomon Islands leader of the Opposition reacted to this and called on the police commissioner and the cnura government not to meddle with Moti’s case. He claimed, “What’s happening is not right and this is probably done right under the nose of the Police Commissioner and I would like to call on him to seriously look at this allegation and to ensure that officers involved in carrying out the deportation of Moti give their...