Success Stories 2 Jul 2021
On 7 July 2021, Solomon Islands will celebrate 43 years of independence. I could recollect a couple of songs that were sang in celebrating the significant milestone accomplished by our country. One of the songs in pidgin says, “Fridom fo evri wan” meaning “Freedom for everyone.”
Whilst it was a significant achievement to be freed from colonial rule, the journey for many of us to realise the much-anticipated growth and prosperity has been hampered by many challenges.
We were not well equipped to embark on this journey alone as a nation. The state of our economy, infrastructure, the government machinery, and developments in other sectors were not robust enough to sustain us in this journey. As an island nation in the Pacific with about 80% of the population living in the rural areas relying on substance farming; limited infrastructure, higher education opportunities, and health services; high youth unemployment and being geographically isolated from major markets, development has been a challenge. I had experienced what life was like as a child with three other siblings growing up in a rural village in Malaita with the support of a single parent soon after independence.
The limited opportunities for employment, business, higher education in other provinces has drawn many people including youth to Guadalcanal where the capital Honiara is. This has resulted in many issues and one of them was the ethnic tensions, a self-inflicted social crisis, from 1998 to 2003. There was lawlessness, many lives were lost, decline in economic growth and the government and community leaders found it difficult to bring the situation under control.
Our people including myself deeply appreciated the intervention in 2003 by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands led by Australia and New Zealand with the support of Forum Island Countries. This mission was possible following a request by our government and the Biketawa declaration agreed to by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2000. This enabled law and order to be restored, government finances to be stabilised and the government machinery to be enhanced. I was in Solomon Islands during the ethnic tensions period and experienced the severe impact this had on our wellbeing and the economy. Whilst we come from different provinces, it is important that we continue to embrace unity and God’s peace as a nation because as a collective we could achieve more for our people and future generations.
I see the significance of families, churches, and community groups working together and stepping up in instilling in our children and grandchildren core values and principles that would guide them in their journey. Youth constitute a significant portion of our population. Seven out of ten Solomon Islanders are below the age of thirty. Whilst development in other sectors is vital, I would encourage our government and partners to provide more support to churches, community groups and youth related initiatives to equip them for the future.
We are in unprecedented times and the health and wellbeing of our people is paramount. Borders are closed, and many businesses and people have experienced various losses due to the pandemic. The issue of Climate change remains a priority. I think decentralisation of development would encourage our people to gradually move back to the islands and tap into opportunities especially in the agriculture sector to sustain them and continue to contribute to development. Tagio tumas, God bless Solomon Islands.
Image: Linda Kaua (standing far right) with her children. The Kaua family have called New Zealand home for the last three years.