Are we missing the target?

5

THE piece of legislation intended to govern the conduct of elections in Solomon Islands is perhaps the best thing that ever happened to this country.

It was gazetted last week. But the weaknesses in the Electoral Act 2018 are beginning to surface.

Steep penalties in the Act do not seem to strike a balance in terms of those who instigate actions intended to corrupt the Act and the ones who implemented them.

Take for example the penalty of a $50, 000 fine, five years in prison or both, being used against those who registered to vote in a Constituency other than their own.

Being made aware of these penalties through media outlets, people are reportedly returning in large numbers to reverse their initial decision. It is a good sign that there still is a degree of respect for the rule of law by ordinary folks.

I contend though that we would be missing the point if we ignore to ask ourselves why the ordinary folks are becoming ‘migratory’ in their behaviour of late.

Why for example have they decided to move away from their own Constituency?

In other words, what is prompting them to do as many have done in registering to vote in a Constituency other than their own?

Is it frustration? Is it the lure of money? What is it?

For example, why did 120 people sail from Ndai Island in north Malaita to Honiara last week so they could register to vote in another Constituency? Or an estimated 200 voters from East Kwaio who were lured allegedly by promises of large sums of money to vote in a Western Province Constituency?

Or the hundreds of voters who have reportedly deserted West Kwara’ae in search of greener grasses in North Malaita?

Or the reported hundreds who came over from Isabel and Central Provinces so they could support a candidate of their choice who is contesting one of the three urban Constituencies in Honiara?

Many of the people who have registered in Constituencies other than their own are largely individuals who voted for losing candidates in the 2014 election.

Their decision to do what they have done is, in a way, a protest vote for being neglected or ignored by the very people who were elected to represent them in Parliament.

What we are seeing today is a by-product of the very conscious decision taken by many politicians to look after only those who voted them in.

This policy of selectivity has produced more divisions and disharmony within communities and Constituencies in the last decade or so than in any other period in our political history.

Until legislative measures are taken to address this political cancer, instigated by none other than the very elected leaders themselves, there is no guarantee things won’t get worse. It only helps the decays and disintegration of this country.

Which brings me to ask why the new Electoral Act 2018 has not made specific penalties against those who masterminded these fraudulent activities? Right now it is the messengers who are being targeted.

It seems we are more interested in dealing with symptoms rather than the cause(s). Any medical doctors would tell you that treating symptoms is unsustainable. It is time the minds behind the various schemes designed to defraud the public are put on the radar.

We have an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. That opportunity is slipping through our fingers very fast. We have a chance to put the decays of society on a brake or we will have lost an entire generation to the scourge of corruption in this country.

By Alfred Sasako