This has been a frantic year and for journalists reporting on 2020 events it has been a top drawer that we never encountered before. As the curtains were closed on 2019 – we didn’t know that few months into 2020, the world would be in lockdown and our country would later shut its borders and new acronyms would have born all in the name of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Abbreviations such SOPE (State of Public Emergency) or EPS (Economic Stimulus Package) are some of the additional words to our daily language though they aren’t often used in the most appropriate fashion.
Surely COVID-19 is a global pandemic but it displaces all national events that would often define a year. Not 2020 where some of the most fascinating and controversial issues were exposed— but they don’t even make my top three biggest news headlines.
It is the biggest news around the world throughout the year and into 2021. Being part of the global village, Solomon Islands is no exception. Since March this year, COVID-19 has been the dominant issue and has since has taken centre stage where all our development aspirations has been halted or limited due to the virus. The economy is predicted to hit the minus sign in a fashion never seen before and predictions that it would take years before we recover to pre-COVIVD-19 days. Besides that, many families were divided and some are still as our borders are locked and mandatory quarantine are introduced so as COVID-19 tests. These have never been seen in our lifetime. In another story, COVID-19 gave birth to the very unpopular ESP where Members of Parliament awarded themselves $600k each let alone the controversies that surround the award of the recipients of the public funds. Though it is still ongoing, the selection of the beneficiaries has drawn much criticism. Lockdown? Yes. That’s also another new word brought about by COVID-19. There were two lockdowns but they were done before the country’s first case was reported. COVID-19 finally landed here on October 3rd and Solomon Islands lost it COVID-19 free status from our returning Philippines students. There are currently 17 cases on our record.
COVID-19 panic had also seen the biggest movement of people from Honiara to our rural Solomons. Thousands rushed in boatloads in a bid to escape from the virus in case it entered Honiara. Sadly, in the rush 27 Solomon Islanders lost their lives in a boat tragedy on Malaita. Schools too were affected but through the smart guidance of the governance our schools were able to sit their exams in time and prepare for 2021. With COVID-19 remains active, it will remain the biggest news of 2021.
- 2. Proposed $100 billion loan
Do you still remember this story? It was in the headlines in April this year. The story was leaked to the media when it emerged that the government was trying to secretly loan $100billion via an unknown middleman in Terry Wong. Though the government argued that it was only a proposal, the mammoth amount had stunned the public and with 10% promised to Wong, tax payers feared that they would end up repaying the loan for the rest of their lives and will also be passed on to their children to carry on the burden. After the news broke, the government had come under gigantic public pressure and since then the proposal had gone silent and there’s nothing being said about the unpopular $100b.
Letters written by the Minister of Finance Harry Kuma to the middleman and other proponents were widely circulated on social media.
Whether this story has been buried, only time will tell.
- 3. Suspension of Facebook
Cabinet’s decision to suspend Facebook has not gone well with Solomon Islanders especially those who use the social-network platform. In November, the Cabinet agreed to suspend FB citing the use of the platform to criticize and even swear at leaders as amongst the reasons for the suspension as they work on a new law to regulate the use of the social network. The decision was met with waves of criticism from the Opposition bench, NGOs and members of the public. At things stand, the government has yet to enforce the suspension, which many citizens have viewed as an attack on their freedom of speech or expression. The government says it is working with relevant stakeholders before it shuts down the social network from Solomon Islands. There is still no definite date for the suspension but those who in the know say it will be an uphill battle for the government before it enforces the Cabinet decision.
This will be one of the key stories to follow up in 2021.
Happy Reading and Happy New Year 2021.