Transparency Solomon Islands is appalled at the letter written by Hon Manasseh Sogavare endorsing Ms. Nanette Tutua as the candidate of OUR Party for the South Choiseul Constituency coming by-election. This letter was written using the official Office of the Prime Minister and letter head and signed by the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Hon. Manasseh Sogavare. This act is nothing more than the abuse and misuse of entrusted power, the position of the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet for OUR Party’s Political agenda, a party that did not contest the 2019 National General Election its policies revolve around RCDF as per the letter. It is a letter for his party to remain in power, to remain in the position of Prime Minister and of a potential woman leader of Choiseul who seeks the endorsement of someone whose integrity she has openly critic in her quest for power.
It is disappointing that this is the fourth time that Hon. Manasseh Sogavare holds the position of Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, and knowingly has conducted himself improperly, abusing, and misusing his office and position for the political agenda of OUR Party. Transparency Solomon Islands does not have an issue with the Hon. Manasseh Sogavare supporting Ms. Nanette Tutua candidacy, but he should do so through the President of OUR Party on OUR party’s official Letterhead. He is the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and not that of OUR Party.
Making his intention to the South Choiseul Constituency Leaders using the official OPMC Letterhead and signing it off as the Prime Minister is simply not right and has no respect for South Choiseul Constituency voters’ freedom and the right to vote for who they chose. The language used is one of dictatorship directing voters to vote for his choice. The allegation by some of the leaders who were present at the meeting announcing the endorsement of Ms. Nanette Tutua as OUR party candidate is even more disturbing where it was allegedly said by the Prime Minister that anyone elected who is not a member of his party is nothing more than a spectator. These are strong and very influential statements coming from a Prime Minister to the ordinary and uneducated voters of Solomon Islands.
There is also the question of use of the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s official letterhead and Hon. Manasseh Sogavare signing as the Prime Minister in his letter of endorsement. What were the advice given to him by the Secretary to Prime Minister [SPM] and the Special Secretary to the Prime Minister [SSPM]? The SPM and SSPM have very important responsibilities. The integrity, image, credibility of the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and in particular that of the Prime Minister rests with them whilst the Secretary of Cabinet looks after the machinery of government, including its performance through the Permanent Secretaries. It is obvious that in this instance they have not advised the Prime Minister correctly. They are there specifically to handle the Prime Minister’s Schedule [government and political] advising the Prime Minister on government administration/management, separation of power etc. [SPM] and political administration and management [SSPM] of that office and Prime Minister to protect the integrity, image, credibility of the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the image, reputation of the position of Prime Minister of Solomon Islands for the people of Solomon Islands. Had they done their work they would have advised the Prime Minister to instruct his political party’s president to issue such a letter using the party’s official letterhead. The other question related to this of course is whether or not this endorsement was discussed and agreed to by OUR Party’s Executive. If it is then what is the agenda behind using the official OPMC Letterhead and signing off as Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and at the same time as Parliamentary Wing Leader of OUR Party. This is a first for Solomon Islands an unacceptable practice at that.
Furthermore, the language used, quote “This is to confirm that the Ownership, Unity and Responsibility Party -OUR Party is putting up Nanette Tutua as its official candidate to contest the South Choiseul Parliamentary seat in the coming bi-election. OUR Party commands 35 seat in the current Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) with a total of 38 seats out of 50 seats. This makes OUR Party the biggest party in the current 11th Parliament. It is therefore important that the candidate elected must be member of the government for the smooth implementation of the ruling government’s development program in the constituency, especially with the intention of government to review the current RCDF program. It has been my intention all along that a leader of Lauru to have all three members of Parliament of Choiseul Province together in Government. We have not been able to achieve this objective since 1997. The coming Bi-election is a wonderful opportunity for us to achieve that objective. I would like to appeal to the people of South Choiseul to think in terms of quality leadership and integrity in choosing the next leader of the constituency, not gender, bribe, and other influences. For this reason, I want to recommend to you Nanette Tutua who I am convinced possess the qualities desired” end of quote.
Had this letter been issued from the office of OUR party and signed by the president of the party, it would be of no concern. The concern is that Hon. Manasseh Sogavare is giving this directive as the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, to a population who know very little about how the formal/public sector systems work, very little awareness about their Constitutional Rights [political, legal, and civil rights] by responsible government institutions and the SECSIP project. According to information given to Transparency Solomon Islands this letter has now been read in various church communities over the weekend. Many are not happy with the content and the tone of the letter it is said. They see the letter not as an endorsement letter but one that openly calls for OUR Party’s candidate support. Transparency Solomon Islands urges the Electoral Commission to carry out awareness informing people correctly and giving them the right information about all of these. For now, many in the South Constituency see this letter of directive as taking away their right to exercise their freedom of choice. The mentioning of the RCDF is seen as a veiled threat to their rights to get assistance from that fund should they vote differently. Many more asked if OUR Party policy is only about RCDF. This is the wrong precedent. The Prime Minister being from Choiseul has called for Choiseul people to vote for candidate that would join his party making all members of parliament from Choiseul to be in the same party. This language and directive do nothing for the unity and peace that our country is searching for. It is the language of dictatorship and someone who want to remain in power at any cost.
Whilst Hon. Manasseh Sogavare has listed the qualities he sees in his endorsed candidate reports to Transparency Solomon Islands office alleges that this endorsed candidate is already distributing solar power, bicycle, petrol in the constituency informing people that it is okay to do so as she has yet to announce her candidacy. Transparency Solomon Islands urges all intending candidates for the coming Bi-election to read the judgement of the petition lodged against Mr. Robertson Galo. Given the issues that have now surfaced Transparency Solomon Islands again calls on the Electoral Commission and especially SECSIP conducting awareness in the constituency now.
In relation to women in parliament, previously TSI raise the issue of the trend in women winning election in Solomon Islands. The Prime Minister’s letter of endorsement shows the urgency for this Executive Government to endorse the recommendations for the amendment of the Political Parties Integrity Act and put it through the parliamentary bills process. The reform, review and amendment of this Act will cater for provision for temporary measures to get women into parliament. The reform of the Electoral System to deal with the monetization of elections can only create a level playing field for women and all intending candidates. What are you waiting for Hon. Prime Minister? It was alleged that your party has boasted that you can pass any act because you have the number. You can use that number to pass the necessary amendments to legitimize, develop and grow political parties, minimize the impact of monetization of elections and allow women to get into parliament, be political party members in their own right with dignity. The trend now does nothing for the integrity, image, and credibility of women in parliament. As it is at the moment women MPs are likely to have been bought by the powerful, preventing them to be who they are, showing a different style of leadership and not be amongst the many who got in [men & women] for whom it is business as usual once they get in. Some have not said a single word in parliamentary debate going on for three terms now. The laws need to change now giving women quotas so that they can get in on their own merit not compromising what they value the most dignity and to be respected for what they are.
Lastly but not the least Transparency Solomon Islands calls for an urgent review of donor funded programs focused on getting women into parliament. Programs so far has not helped women get into parliament or they have not worked for women as designed and implemented by inter-governmental agencies including the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women etc. These programs at a glance do not interact women leaders with the voters, the biggest important missing link.