Speech by the Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, on concluding the motion of Sine Die on the occasion of the eighth Parliament – First Session – Second Meeting, 12 October 2006.
Hon SOGAVARE: Mr Speaker, I stand to round up debate on the motion of sine die, which I moved three days ago. I underestimated the number of people who would like to speak on the motion.
Sir, I think much have been said by leaders in this honorable House, all leaders in our own rights elected by our people and in that regard we deserve the respect of everyone in this honorable House. No one is greater regardless of our ranks in this House we are elected by our people. Members have spoken and said their bit in the debate on the motion, both this side and that side of the House.
There were quite a number of good advices given. Unfortunately, the system to take account of the things said by the other side of the House is not really there and so I guess we need to work out something so that some of the good things said by the people on the other side of the House are taken seriously by the Government. Of course, we have shadow Ministers who are assigned responsibilities by the Leader of Opposition and so I guess the way to go is that if the shadow ministers have issues that they want the government to take up seriously, please feel free to discuss with substantive Ministers.
Sir, I promise not to take three hours again and I will keep my voice very low as well. I think all the hot air and all the reasons to shout have gone, and I am only winding up the motion and so I will keep with the trend and I’ll just wind up and may be when there is necessary to make some points, I will probably raise my voice.
I’ll just acknowledge the words of thanks expressed to the various organizations and institutions by Members of Parliament. I do not need to go through them. I think all the Members of Parliament have thanked, especially everybody in the country and I would like to join the Members of Parliament by endorsing that. As the leader of this government, I would like to endorse all the words of thanks expressed by Members of Parliament to the various institutions and individuals throughout this country.
Personally, I want to acknowledge and join the others who have acknowledged some people. First of all, Mr Speaker, this country, as expressed in this Parliament by many Members of Parliament, is a Christian country. I strongly believe this country is what it is today and continues to be what it is today because of the fact that we are Christians. I make no apology for making that statement. Every Sundays and Saturdays, Christians go to Church. I know and I have actually received letters and phone calls by leaders of the Churches throughout the country saying that they are on their knees praying for the Government. That is a biblical mandatory - a mandate to Christians throughout the country to pray for government. We have several former pastors or still pastors, I still want to call them pastors and bishops in Parliament who shared that view and remind us in this Parliament that this country is a Christian country and we should behave like Christians, Mr Speaker.
I would also like to acknowledge the 27 Members of Parliament who allowed God to work through their hearts and have given me another fresh mandate, another lot of 28. I was talking to the Minister of Peace and Reconciliation, and this number is divinely ordained. When he shared this vision with me, I was really touched Mr Speaker. This figure 28, in fact was already shown to the Minister of Reconciliation and Peace in the first round then God is still alive, which I believe He is, we still maintained the 28 although with different faces.
I think the vote of no confidence also tells me who my real friends are. I do not believe on this thinking that politics is about friends today and enemies tomorrow. I would like to believe that if you are a friend, you are a friend forever because this is a Christian country.
Sir, the debates become very repetitious. Ninety five percent of the issues raised in the debates basically are just moaning and groaning about issues the Government has already explained on the floor of this Parliament either during question time or in their debate proper on the substantive business of the House. But I guess the fact that they continue to come demonstrates that the Members of Parliament feel probably very strong about those issues, and I think another round of explanation is all in order.
So much so that we pick words out of context and make issue out of them. Words such as alien, sovereignty, puppets were used and then I guess because we have really nothing to contribute to the House, we take them out of context and make issues out of them. And this is by very senior politicians in this House, Mr Speaker. Even when I moved the motion of Sine Die, I made a point that politicians have a duty of care to new Members of Parliament in the way we debate, the way we conduct ourselves in this House.
Mr Speaker, the Parliament is effectively the highest court of the land where Members of Parliament, as representatives of their people, make submissions on issues they consider as important for their people. That is basically what it is, and you are the judge sitting there, Mr Speaker, listening to the points raised here by Members of Parliament.
Sir, why I am raising that is because there are concerns over we being very aggressive in the House. What appears to be a serious break down, for example, in relationship in the House, is normal. In fact this House is very civilized. If you go to some Houses, some Parliaments in other countries, Mr Speaker, question time is basically a mad house affair. They don’t answer questions, but they just shout at each other. We don’t throw shoes at each other in this Parliament, we don’t remove our shoes and shoot each other, we do not walk across and fight the other side. This is a very civilized House. We treat each other with respect. In fact we treat your Chair, Mr Speaker, the respect it deserves.
What I am saying here is that what appears to be serious breakdown or shouting of each other in here is just a normal thing, as long as we do not remove our shoes and throw at each other.
I was listening with interest to the point raised by the MP for Shortlands. It is very interesting to see the spirit of cooperation and unity in the way Members of Parliament treat each other as brothers outside of this House. It is the same in Cabinet.
The Cabinet is where Members of Cabinet argue, throw books at each other and once a decision is arrived at, that is the decision of Cabinet. Even though one or two might not be in favor of the decision, it becomes the decision of Cabinet and the Cabinet stands by it. And when they come to the floor of Parliament, Members of the Cabinet, even if they do not like a decision, they defend it with their life. It is the same in here.
I admire the way we behave here. We argue here, we point fingers at each other,
and we use very strong languages but when we go out, we sit around the same
table. You do not see that happening in other Parliaments. The Opposition Members, when they come out of
the Chamber, they go to a different room, they have their own kitchen, their
own restaurant and they eat there. The Government
side goes to a different place and they eat there too. I think that spirit is unique in
Sir, I’ll say the soft things first. The Government fully appreciates the concerns
raised by Members on the need to quickly normalize relationship with
As far as the Government is concerned, Mr Speaker, our minds are clear and we have taken positive initiatives to sort this impasse. I guess it boils down to something and this side of the House will continue to maintain that we demand nothing less than the respect that is rightfully due to this country. I think once we appreciate that kind, we should not have any problem with how we should be able to deal with each other. As we are talking, we are waiting for reports on the initiatives taken by the MSG officials and to take further moves from that report.
Sir, the vote of no confidence, with due respect, regardless how many times we might want to say in this House by that side of that House or the Australian media or anybody in this country who want to argue, but I still strongly believe and all the articles that keep coming out of the media continue to disturb me that I still hold very strong the opinion that Canberra has direct interest in the outcome of the motion of no confidence, as clearly, clearly expressed in articles that have come out.
That is very serious, Mr Speaker. It makes this government not very comfortable. I have, as I said, overwhelming proof that on Wednesday in response to the Opposition Leader’s motion, I am getting feedbacks that it is very disturbing from the streets of Honiara that we had some very, very uneasy soldiers and police officers and expatriate residents when they learn of the defeat of this motion. That is sending a very wrong signal.
question, I guess, is do we have vested interest on the outcome of this motion,
Mr Speaker? Soldiers and Police officers
who are here at the request of this Parliament are supposed not to take sides. This matter is between, the diplomatic issue,
I thank God the country still goes ahead. As I said that is because of the many prayers that Christians throughout the country have been putting to God that He continues to give wisdom to this House.
There is also a manifestation of inconsistency in the
way a lot of political leaders in this House relate to serious national issues.
That comes out very clearly as well in the way we conduct ourselves in the
various debates. For example, our
I deal with this government Mr Speaker since 2000 when I was the Prime Minister of the country and after this year when I took over the responsibility to lead our government, I find it very difficult to believe that. In fact Mr Speaker, the articles that come out from the Australian media have come out very clear saying that Taiwan was funding the government to win this vote of no confidence. I just cannot understand that. Unless I do not know, Mr Speaker, that they may have given money to the Ministers or backbenchers.
From my personal conversation and consultations with
the Embassy here, nothing like that happens.
I find that as not right. We make
very, very sweeping statements in Parliament that we cannot even prove. The same comes out from newspapers in
Statements such as: “These came in the wake of claims that funds sourced from the Taiwanese Government, which is being strongly supported by Sogavare in the campaign for membership of the United Nations has been used to help defeat the motion”. These are very irresponsible statements, and it is not right.
I must basically condemn right here in this House that we are tarnishing the image of one very reliable donor of this country when every one of us are receiving their money.
Sir, in fact they are not alone, these people, there are people, as I said already and I read their statements, in Australia and outside, who continue to advance the allegation that Taiwan money is used to win the motion.
My question to all of us is, when will these people come to their senses and understand the issues before us before putting the blame where it should be.
Yes, Mr Speaker, indeed, we have
defeated the motion of no confidence, and we want to assure the country and the
Mr Speaker, despite the fact that I explained already on this floor of Parliament the case of the new Attorney General, questions are still raised in this Parliament about this person. We make very, very sweeping statements without really thinking about it. Statements like “this foreigner”.
I tried to clear that when I moved this motion of sine die, Mr Speaker. If “foreigner” is what we are concern about then let me read to you the number of foreigners that are already engaged by the SIG and the Public Service. At the Australian High Commission were 8 foreigners, Forestry - 5 foreigners, Planning Office - 19 foreigners, Lands – 6 foreigners, Community Sector Program – 6 foreigners, the National Disaster Management Office – 1 foreigner, PAC/TEF – 2 foreigners, Red Cross – 2 foreigners, Australian Youth and Ambassadors for Development – 1foreigner, Business Volunteers – 1 foreigner, Tourism – 1 foreigner, Customs – 1 foreigner, GRM (Brisbane Office) – 6 foreigners, GRM (Honiara Office) – 8 foreigners, Justice Agencies in Tongs Building (fourth floor in Point Cruz) – 5 foreigners, Ministry of Police & Justice (Attorny Saru building) – 2 foreigners, Police Prosecution (third floor - Place Makers) – 4 foreigners, Case Support Unit – 4 foreigners, Infrastructure – NPF building – 5 foreigners, Justice Agencies at the High Court – 6 foreigners, Central Magistrates Court – 2 foreigners, the Public Solicitor’s Office (2nd floor, Place Makers building) – 3 foreigners, DPP (3rd floor, Place Makers) – 5 foreigners, Attorney General’s Office – 1 foreigner, Prison Service Advisors – 41 foreigners, Financial Strength and Management Program – 17 foreigners, Economic Reform – 5 foreigners, Others – 6 foreigners, Machinery of Government Program Unit – 4 foreigners, Accountability – 9 foreigners, Government Processes – 7 foreigners, Electoral Support Civic Education – 7 foreigners, Media and Public Affairs – 4 foreigners, Media Outlet - Solomon Star has 1 foreigners, SIBC has 2 foreigners, Government IT – 1 foreigner, Provincial Government – 1 foreigner, Honiara City Council – 1 foreigner, GRM/RAMSI Government Facility Honiara Base (Level 4 -Tongs Building ) - 2 foreigners.
Mr Speaker, when we talk about the “foreigner” I do not know what we are talking about here, Mr Speaker, when this country, the Public Service is inundated by foreigners. Either we are blind or perhaps we are not aware what is happening in the country that we are so carried away with our, may be hatred for the government, I don’t know that we even willing to sacrifice the principles that we have.
This individual since we talk too much about him is an
official of the government, which is why the government of
His travel to
This individual had a successful career and is a respected member of the legal community who comes with references from a number of very senior officials around the world, Mr Speaker, including a Governor General, State and Appeal Court Presidents - current and former, former Chief Justice of an Australian Supreme Court, former Solicitor General of Australia, Heads of Tertiary Education Institutions Respected Judges from the Region, and a Chief Secretary to the United Nations, to name a few.
Sir, what I am trying to say here is that it was not necessary for him to accept this appointment to further his career or to achieve any more credibility, apart from the recognition he has already maintained from such affluent individuals. I would like to add here as well, Mr Speaker, nor did he do it for financial gain to accept the conditions provided under our regulation for someone of such standing, is in reality a …….. based on his qualification and experience.
The question I want to put out is how then can we, as a nation be expected to literally abandon such an individual who has committed himself in such a way to serve in our best interest for the purpose of carrying forward our nation to a progressive and more prosperous future based on our limited knowledge of the rule of law.
Sir, if this case is tried in
Here is a letter from his team of lawyers in
This request was made to those who arrested him in Papua New Guinea, and even they are going to pursue it further with this group as well, is flatly rejected him. Instead they just want to dump him - those people who held him and put him in jail.
Sir, the issue of the AG is no
Without any respect for the laws of PNG, for example, the Transnational Crime Squad illegally arrested him. It is still an issue. The Prime Minister of PNG came out very clear and said that all the correct processes are not there, it is addressed to the junior officers. As it stands at this point in time, that arrest in PNG is illegal and did not follow the laws of PNG.
In fact, it was claimed that the
The question that came out very clear here, Mr Speaker is, does it make sense to us Solomon Islanders that the alleged crime was committed in Vanuatu, and not only committed in Vanuatu but also cleared in the Vanuatu Court. The case was cleared already. That person was acquitted, and if you had listened to the news today the Magistrate who dealt with that case was insulted by those allegations. He came out and said that there was no proof and there was not enough evidence. And if the court system is something that we should go by and something we should respect, and if law and order and respect for institutions, is what RAMSI is here in this country to advance, then let us have some. This is what this thing is turning up to now.
What I am sad about is that a lot of Members of this Parliament have simply brushed out these issues. We look at it, prima facie and we judge it by its cover. We are not looking at the issues the Government is trying to grapple with here. That shows our immaturity. We just take things as they. If it is good for us and it supports our argument we go ahead and use it without really thinking about them. That is really irresponsible. As I said earlier, the detention of the AG in Rove as well is also questionable.
Our laws are clear, the laws of this country are clear
as to how we should deal with such cases.
This is a simple immigration case. This country is not answerable to
This government, I tell you straightaway now will not tolerate the Australian Government on any request of extradition of this officer who is appointed to take up a very important responsibility in our judicial system. How they are dealing with this person is a clear disregard of the laws and systems of this country. And no right minded Solomon Islander must tolerate that. It is not right.
As I have said, it no longer becomes the Moti issue. This is some serious fundamental principles and legal issues, protection of the laws of this country, and legally constitutionally established institutions that we must respect, and for the very reason why RAMSI is here in this country to protect. Why are we undermining it?
Sir, this is driving us too far, it is driving this
country too far. And I must warn
Although we are a small country we have one vote in
the United Nations.
Sir, the other point I want to raise here, which Solomon
Islands is prepared to take it to the limit this issue is that Australia is a signatory
to the United Nations Convention on Protected Persons, and it actually enacted a
legislation to support that Convention. This
law protects from arrest the officials of the state of another country in
Like I warned,
Sir, I am also surprised to hear
leaders complaining that some MPs are making references to Bible in this
House. And some are saying go to the Church,
this is not a Church so do not use the Bible here. I think the Member for
At the outset, I made it very plain and clear that we are claiming ourselves Christians. This country professes to be 90% plus Christian. God is the Supreme Ruler of this country. So how? It is just appropriate that we must remind ourselves that we are God’s children. We are mandated to be here in Parliament because of His intervention. Do not think that you come here by accident. No! You come here by design. There is time for us. We are in government because probably this is our time. I believe it is time for us to be in government, and we defeated the motion yesterday.
Like I pointed out there are a lot of things I heard from people that the motion was meant to go through. I heard it. You know what I did and as always I have been doing, I was on my knees praying to God. I have been on an hourly watch.
I learned that from the Chairman of the Government Caucus, a very godly Chairman of Government Caucus. Every four clock since we took up office, this man has been down at the Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office dedicating and praying to God, petitioning God, please protect us. He prays around the Ministers’ chairs, touching the chairs and praying as he goes, every morning. Is that not a Christian practice, an example that every one of us should follow?
I learn from him. I am on an hourly watch. I set the clock, the clock rings every hour, and I wake up throughout the night. When the clock rings it plays a music and so when I heard the music I wake and pray to God, ‘please you put me here, you carry me here, and so are you going to drop me in this blue ocean and I will drown’. I do not think God will do that. If you are there by design, He puts you there, He is going to carry you through. I believe in that.
As I said this side of the House does not need to bribe people to win that motion of no confidence. I leave it entirely to God. Who am I, a mortal human being to stand up and say ‘God I do not want to lose’. That is not what I say. I said, ‘Please, help me to be humble. Help me to accept whatever comes’. If you say that I go down, help me to bear it. That is the kind of prayer I was offering to God. If you say I continue to stay and defend the cause of this country, you make me win, you help us, give us wisdom.
We heard stories like He opened the
Have you heard of any army dropping a city just by walking around? God uses what they are good at - walking. They have been walking for 40 years and so God told them to walk around the city and the city fell down.
If that God is still alive today, who am I to doubt Him? That is the strength on which this Prime Minister took that stand. When we are reminded of God in this Honorable House, I think it is just appropriate. So much for that.
In fact, many Members of Parliament are now joining the Chairman of the Government Caucus. He has a team now that goes down to Cabinet every morning to petition God and pray in that building. I just want to declare to the nation that this Government is serious about the leadership of God in this Government.
I just want to explain a few things and then I will finish. On the Millennium Development Fund Bill, I just want to acknowledge that the Bill does not satisfy the normal processes and so it needs to go back to Cabinet for endorsement and careful scrutiny. But there are existing rules and laws that can cater for the administering of this millennium development fund. In fact, the guidelines will be issued by the Minister of Development Planning very shortly.
The Ministries are working on their work programs. In fact they are about to finish the programs. As soon as they complete them we should be able to see our work programs. Most of the work programs the government intends to do will be reflected in the government’s budget.
National unity was also raised on the floor of Parliament. National unity can only be achieved and sustained through policies that will foster ethnic tolerance, understanding, respect for culture and traditional practices of ethnic groups throughout the country. That is why the Government is concerned about the way the current peace process is pursued, and we are trying to redirect the way we address the country’s peace process because we believe there is need to really address the underlying issues.
The Member for
NPF loans and how interest is calculated was raised in Parliament. We will look into that. But the normal way banks charge their interest is through compound interest. I assume here that the NPF might have followed the same interest charging structure like the banks and actually charge interest through a compound formula. But we will look into that.
On Public Service Reform, which the Member for North Vella and the Shadow Minister for Public Service has raised is an ongoing process. We take note of all the concerns and advice rendered by the Shadow Minister of Public Service. I raised earlier on when I started my talk that I would encourage Shadow Ministers from the other side of the House to approach the substantive Ministers of this side of the House when you have issues that you want to discuss with them.
We are all in Government, and if you have views that you think should be taken up, please come and see us. I had actually a good working relationship with the Leader of Opposition. He has written to me several letters on what he thinks about certain issues, which we have actually taken up. There is no fear in doing that. We do not want to close the door. We are not saying that we have everything and we know everything. Never have we said that. We are fallible human beings and we need advice from everyone so that we can see the programs to benefit our people.
In saying that, Mr Speaker, I just want to assure this
nation and the people of
Mr Speaker this is a challenge that we put on ourselves, and of course, as raised by a lot of Members in here, which we are taking in good heart. It is something the Government is established for and we will just be purely stupid not to take heavy regard for those concerns.
We are also committed, Mr Speaker to ensure that the peace we now enjoy is sustained and we will continue to enjoy it.
We are also committed to ensure the
investors that the investment environment in
We are also committed to working very closely with the
important sectors in the economy to advance our corporate aspirations, which is
to see a peaceful and prosperous
We are also committed to ensure that
If people are serious about issues that they want the government to take up, feel free, push it through the Caucus Office, the Caucus Office will put a paper up, the Caucus will discuss it and channel through the proper way to the Cabinet and then we can adopt them as government policy.
Mr Speaker, I think with that, I beg
to move that at the adjournment of Parliament on