The political landscape in the Solomon Islands has changed in recent weeks following a successful No Confidence Motion in the leadership of Manasseh Sogavare as head of the Democratic Coalition for Change Government and the ushering in of a new Prime Minister, the Hon, Rick Hou, and a fresh set of Ministers to administer the affairs of the country until a general election due to be held in 2018.
The change at the top prompted several young people to write to me saying they intend to put their names forward to represent their constituencies at the next general election citing, in most instances, their belief that it was time for the ‘old guard’ to be replaced and for a younger generation to sit in Parliament.
I was a little puzzled as to why these young, would-be MP’s wrote to me telling me of their plans unless it was thought I could offer some advice or insights as to how to prepare for election and how to behave in office but then the their concerns started to emerge as I read and are largely embraced by these observations.
I recall some years ago reading a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson who oncesaid, “Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.”
The idea of a ‘career politician’ conjures up an impression of someone with little experience outside politics, who is interested in climbing the ‘greasy pole’ of power for their own interests rather than the interests of others,were the quoted lines of another but who said that now escapes me.
Both quotes are largely unfair I would like to think that when inspiring to stand for Parliament as an MP one has the general needs of their constituencies foremost in mind and will do everything in their power while in office to ensure their constituents and constituencies benefit.
MP’s have no managers and are elected to represent and take decisions on behalf of their constituents and their decisions are not always viewed as correct but one has to respect their right to make them. This also means there is no single performance measure.
Recognising that MPs are democratically elected provides them with a democratic legitimacy that makes it difficult to simply set objectives or tell them that they need to engage in certain types of work but when it comes to the administration of the Constituency Developments Funds that MP’s are given annually I would beg to say the MPs are obliged to administer and apply those funds to constituency development projects entirely and accountability.
In the Solomon Islands, like in so many other smaller Pacific states where cultural practices greatly influence politics, there could be said to be a surfeit of democracy in the election process and complicated by ‘wantok’ influences to the degree that cabinet often contains several ministerial posts in order to consolidate the loyalty of those MP's giving their backing to the government.
The impression I gained from reading the letters of the young people that wrote to me is that the two assumed characteristics of the ‘old guard’ career politicians that they most dislike, apart from ‘fence hopping’ are that they allegedly put self needs before those of others and, because they have allegedly neglected the people in their constituencies.
To Lead is to Serve and clearly the young aspiring politicians have strong views on what is expected of them in office.