When Malaysia’s Prime Minister-inwaiting and leader of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Anwar Ibrahim spoke at the Singapore Summit on 15 September to talk about the state of his country, the lessons he shared were arguably true in Malaysia as they are for the fledgling democracies of the Pacific.
He spoke about how the traditional strongholds of the previous government fell like dominos in the 9 May general elections. It was a nationwide tsunami, he said and the result was unprecedented as its impact cut across national and provincial governments.
On at least four key subjects of anticorruption, the judiciary, free media and the economy, he shared the following reminders:
“Strengthening the institutions of governance so that never again will we allow the executive to wield so much power and do so much damage to the nation. The anti corruption body, the MACC used to be answerable only to the Prime Minister is now made accountable to parliament. One of the great failures that we will be paying the price for years to come was that the anti-corruption commission was not able to function independently.
“The auditor general’s office has also been earmarked to be independent of the executive. This will go very far in ensuring that real effective oversight of Malaysia’s finances. “
“We also need to ensure that the judiciary is independent and misconduct by judges and lawyers carry swift significant
consequences. Judges must be insulated from political interference.
“Billions of dollars were siphoned off across the global network of enablers of money laundering and grand theft. I must commend some authorities including the Department of Justice of the United States for giving us the support in the investigations to be able to secure at least some of these money squandered from the nation.”
“The importance of free media cannot be overstated. I have shared that this free media sounds nice to some people but for those in power its not something that is well cherished, and that it would take discipline, tolerance and commitment to be able to support this initiative because it is an antidote, the most effective antidote to the arrogance of power.
“The media is certainly free now to report the truth. To interpret the truth or to debunk some of what was considered at least sacrosanct in our country. Unless those issues of governance and accountability are addressed then the credibility of media in an era of fake news would remain suspect.”
“To suggest that our government has inherited a fiscal mess would be an understatement. As we enter the ministries and started taking controls of the reigns of power, we are learning the full extent of how the previous administration mismanaged the country.
“I will go as far as to say that it was a case of criminal financial mismanagement not withstanding that we have had accolades from analysts, from rating agencies but now when we go through the accounts, horrendous crimes were committed at the expense of the country and the masses.”
It was a bitter-sweet kind of an anniversary for the people of Solomon Islands this past month when drug shortage in its main public hospital in the capital worsened. What’s suppose to be a celebration of what the island nation has been able to achieve turned into a display of its many shortcomings, not so much brought about by a country starved of good and hard working people but more about incompetency and a no-care attutude on the part of some of its officials.
This matter of the hospital running out of basic medicine has been around for a few months, and despite assurances by Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela, his administration still seem unable to come to grips with the problem. It is surprising that heads have not rolled for the drug shortage to drag on this far, especially that of his health minister and permanent secretary.
For all we are reading and hearing are the plight of patients in the capital, Honiara, God knows what the status is of the hospitals and health clinics outside of the capital, out in the outer provinces of Solomon Islands. Away from the prying eyes of the Solomon news media and that of concerned citizens venting on social media, one hates to think how patients in these outlying hospitals are faring.
Prime Minister Houenipwela struck up a remarkable reputation for being a hands-on, doer instead of a talker type of administrator when in the midst of the civil unrest that sent his country on a downward spiral in the late 1990s, he almost singlehandedly stood his ground as Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, defied threats by militants to plunder the national treasury or to relax stringent foreign currency rules.
I’d say his country’s health sector needs his urgent intervention now before patients start dying in the very institutions that was built to restore good health and spirits. For what one would assume should be a simple logistic matter, it’s almost criminal that medical drug supplies have not been restored and distributed by now.
Reign it in Prime Minister Hou, or send home those in your administration that do not seem to know their job. The people of Solomon Islands deserve way much better.
LATE last month Papua New Guinea returned the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to power – albeit with a much smaller majority. At the same time the people of the Pacific’s largest democracy removed three women Members of Parliament.
This despite the fact that a record 167 women stood for election. Now moves are afoot to impeach O’Neill who has been under pressure from political rivals, anti-corruption advocates and law enforcement agencies for several years.
In Tonga a legally elected government has been ordered by King Tupou VI to stand down and prepare for fresh elections after apparent discontent among the electorate. The Solomon Islands will soon go to the polls and campaigning in the Fiji elections schedules for next year has started in earnest with the Opposition and ruling parties courting voters.
In Fiji soldier-turned Prime Minister Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama addressed the Methodist Church Conference and told its leadership not to use the pulpit for political gains. Days later he addressed the New Methodist Church – a powerful new religious voice – in the same vein.
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IN August 1945 the United States destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki with an atomic bomb in an event which changed the world forever. More than 70 years later the race for nuclear supremacy continues unabated. Just last month North Korea defied the international community and tested a missile with nuclear capabilities. This act of defiance showed the world just how great a threat North Korea is to the world but also how little progress has been made in international detente.
It is not our wish to apportion blame to any single state, rather it is to point out that after 72 years the threat of nuclear war remains real. And therefore it is the duty of every responsible sovereign government to speak out against the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world.
The Pacific had great success at international climate change talks in Paris two years ago, leading to Fiji’s chairmanship of COP23 in Germany this year. World leaders stopped and listened to the collective regional message because it was spoken from the very hearts of the people of Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
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THE Pacific Community marks 70 years of service to the region this month in a quiet way in Noumea, New Caledonia. It is fitting that an organisation with humble beginnings should celebrate such a milestone in a subdued fashion, eyes firmly focussed on the work that remains to be done to develop people, health, agriculture, shipping and aviation.
Born as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in 1947, the organisation has stood alongside the nations of the region in their journey as colonies towards independence and later as sovereign nations. Of course there are Pacific territories which remain colonies, some of them by choice. Others, while independent, face various political challenges from benign dictatorships to failing economies, coastal degradation and Non-Communicable diseases.
Therefore it is fitting that the Pacific Community’s two main offices are in New Caledonia – a French overseas territory – and Fiji, one of the region’s longest independent nations. For Noumea and Suva represent in their own ways the best and worst of what the Pacific has to offer.
Each is a mixture of the best and the worst. Each offers an insight into the tremendous possibilities which exist for Pacific economies if there is a political will to seize opportunities and forge pathways towards a future which will benefit the people. Islands Business is proud to be associated with the Pacific Community through our coverage and support of key conferences on Non-Communicable Disease, climate change and sustainable fisheries.
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