Posted by : Posted on : 13-Mar-2020

The fly and the tree question

Many years ago I went for a job interview when the person conducting my interview posed a series of questions to test my intelligence, quick thinking and reactions to situations; all relevant I assumed to the nature of the work I was interested in doing.

One simple poser put to me was, “What do apples, pears and oranges have in common?”  Fruit of course was the answer.

The next question was, “What do a fly and a tree have in common?” Clearly this was a “red herring.” trick question, and I said they had nothing in common.

The fly and a tree poser has been on my mind several times recently and I will explain why.

Extreme bad weather raged across the Solomon Islands in the past few days bringing heavy rain, damage to roads and to bridges, flooding, landslides and the very tragic loss of two lives at Lambi.

The Tabaa bridge in Malaita was wrecked and this has meant travelling to Auki from Fatalaka almost impossible.  The loss of the bridge, which was already in a poor state of repair before the heavy rain, comes just days after the East Fataleka road was reported to have been in a terrible state and required intervention to make it suitable for transportation.

In mid February, the Barana Primary School in North-East Guadalcanal was gifted 5 water tanks and the donation of the much needed tanks described as a gift from heaven by the staff and children at the school.  Without water storage facilities the school children had to walk into the nearby forest to fetch water and the practice had continued for some considerable time.

Today, I learned that the young students of Gizo primary and community high school in Western Province have been impressed with a newly completed footpath connecting the classrooms and the entire school.

Speaking to the Solomon Star this week most students interviewed said they are very lucky to have a new footpath.

With the completed footpath now connecting the classrooms and the main road, it has brought much relief to both the students and teachers.

One of the female students said in the past when it rains their uniforms got dirty and muddy when they jumped over the drains to their classroom.

But with the footpath, we can now walk freely and comfortably around without worrying to walk through mud,’’ she said.

The project was made possible through the World Bank-funded CAUSE Project with support from the Western Provincial Government.

All the incidences I have mentioned are matters that would not raise an eyebrow or a paragraph in the press on the international stage, but the loss of the Tabaa bridge will have a significant impact for some considerable to people needing to travel to Auki to market and sell produce, to conduct other business, or even to get medical treatment.

Very much can be said about the gift of water tanks and the new footpath.  Lives have been improved by such simple investments and both the water tanks and the footpath in overall terms of costs negligible.

I could go on to raise the concerns I have so often mentioned about the run down state of the rural health clinics and the basic needs I see required by the National Referral Hospital (NRH), especially the requirement for a replacement workshop to facilitate the manufacture of prosthetic limbs.

When Dorothy Wickham the founder of Melanesian News Network and a staff reporter of the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) in my time in the Solomon Islands, returned from a visit to China last year she wrote an interesting article about her trip that she and other local journalists had made as part of a ‘look and learn tour.’

Dorothy described her arrival in Beijing, saying:  

 “Landing in Beijing, what struck us first was the vast physical scale of the place; the sight of huge structures and seemingly endless rolling boulevards and cities was hard for us islanders to get our heads around.”

“In Beijing we visited the newsrooms of CCTV and their international branch CGTN. The size of their staff numbers and the digital system they were using were, to us, the equivalent to going to the moon.”   

Ending her article, Dorothy commented.

“I saw China as a country with money to burn and a point to prove. But from the beginning, all I could think was: how can we, a tiny island nation, ever hope to partner equally with this giant of a country, the world’s fastest growing superpower.”

I return then to the question asked at my job interview.   “What do a fly and a tree have in common?”

I am not a politician, a political analyst or an intelligence strategist so will leave the question unanswered.

I will say, however, all the infrastructural and development challenges across the board that are required in the Solomon Islands are insignificant to the power-house that China has become and could be so easily remedied if willing to bring about the changes initiated in the joint MOU’s signed between the Solomon Islands government and the government of the Peoples Republic of China and for the well-being and enrichment of the lives of the people of the Solomon Islands.

I didn’t get the job in the end, so maybe the question about the fly and the tree wasn’t a red herring after all!

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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