Honiara : 7 May 2016
Letter to the Editor, Honiara Sun Newspaper.
STOP THE SPREADING OF FALSE RUMOURS
In 1999, as I left the Solomon Islands, rumours, false stories and untruthful accusations were rife and, as evidence given to the later Truth and Reconciliation Commission attest, the so-called civil uprising or ‘ethnic tension’ was fuelled and aggravated by the spreading of false rumours largely in part.
The telling of stories as always been a part of Solomon Islands culture, indeed the cultural practice of many of the small Pacific Island states, but the deliberate spreading of false stories and accusations, as reportedly occurred in the Solomon Islands last week, is not only a dangerous, untimely and unwanted practice but those found responsible for maliciously spreading false rumours could be found guilty of a criminal offence in terms of Section 63 of the Solomon Islands Penal Code which contains these provisions.
(a) maliciously fabricates or knowingly spreads abroad or publishes, whether by writing or by word of mouth or otherwise, any false news or false report tending to create or foster public alarm, public anxiety or disaffection or to produce public detriment; or
(b) acts or is acting in a manner prejudicial to the public safety or to the peace and good order of any part of Solomon Islands; or
(c) endeavours to disturb the public peace by exciting hatred or contempt of any class of persons,
shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable to imprisonment for one year or to a fine of two hundred dollars.”
The trauma, destruction and loss of life between 1999 and 2003 was the greatest tragedy ever to have occurred in the once ‘Happy Isles” and nobody wishes to have a repeat of the sad events of those years.
I was pleased to read in the Solomon Star that former combatants on both sides of the past conflict have condemned the spreading of false rumours of war, including Joseph Sangu and Andrew Te’e, representing the Solomon Islands Post Conflict Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Restoration Association (SIPCRRRA and Moses Su’u, representing the former Malaita militants.
All of them claimed the spreading of false rumours create fear and instability in the communities. They are absolutely right, of course, and I appreciate their common views of reason and practical sense.
“Bush telegraph,” a practice known to many islanders, led to the spreading of false accusation but today we are 17 years on from the conflict that afflicted the nation in 1999 and technology and communication systems are dissolving geographical distance and political boundaries.
The positive aspects of such a trend are numerous, including importantly, to get to the truth of a situation more easily with a fact finding telephone call.
Not all in the Solomon Islands have yet received communications by the use of mobile phones but services are expanding and the SIBC still broadcasts its factual, daily news across the nation.
There are pressing social and economic problems still besetting the Solomon Island but there is no room for rumours, false accusations and words that lead to public alarm or unrest.