VIEWPOINT-PM’s visit to Tikopia

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PM Sogavare surrounded by the Happy Children of Tikopia
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A grateful community say thank you….

PETER FORAU

Honiara

MANY people would not leap for joy when the Prime Minister makes a visit to their island but for us, the people of Tikopia, the Prime Minister’s latest visit to our island is not only historic but also a defining moment for us. 

It’s the first time after 43 years since a Prime Minister has visited us, almost half a century before we were able to see in person the Prime Minister of the country that we are citizens of.

Therefore, the visit was an occasion to behold which is why virtually the whole island, yes everyone on the island, old and young turned up to see, meet and hear the Prime Minister. 

I’m told some had to come a few days earlier so that they can be at the venue when the PM arrived. 

The PM’s arrival was delayed by half a day, yet no one moved, they all waited, just to see the Prime Minister. 

On Tuesday 15th June the Island Sun shared in the front page of its daily, a photo of the PM abiding with three of our Chiefs at the venue where he was welcomed.

The venue was Safoa school, the very school that I was educated at with the assistance by the New Zealand Government who had seconded a retired teacher to be principal of the school. 

He did wonders and a good number of us including yours truly were able to pass for further education away from our island.   

Overall, we had made a disproportionate contribution to the human development of our country, yet had in return received very little in development assistance.

For me it’s a double honour.  For the PM went ashore at my village and he was welcomed at my old school.  Wow! How wonderful.

In the old days we had running water in our villages and a well-equipped clinic housed in a permanent building that had a fridge and communication facilities.

Shipping services was the best, reliable and good, clean vessels to traverse the long journey.

All these are no more, making us an orphan of Development. 

We don’t have running water any more. We don’t have a clinic – thankfully the PM donated medical supplies to re-start our clinic after being dormant before his arrival. 

We have been neglected for almost half a century, the Central Government had neglected us, development partners and the NGO community had also not paid us any attention – maybe we are too remote so fearing no public visibility, everyone had shied away.

I wonder whether this is how development assistance should be extended just for the sake of publicity?

Everyday, we watched with envy so and so High Commissioner or Minister Counsellor, even first Secretary of this and that diplomatic mission launching projects after projects for the benefit of communities in and around Honiara or near-by provinces.   

Maybe if we had been close-by the same could have happened to us too.  Sadly we are so remote too far to provide the publicity that donors are looking for. 

This is why the Prime Minister’s visit to our Island is a blessing for us. 

We have hope for improved attention and maybe a trickle of development assistance for our benefit to happen following the visit.

If you are wondering yes we have an MP who is a Minister. 

But why isn’t there any development on the island?  Oh yes we have a tractor and canteens everywhere on the island.

However we need running water, sanitation and medical services.

We would do a good ship too.  The current one is best suited to transport cargo, not passengers.

Maybe our Constituency is too big which is why our member is unable to address everyone’s development needs. 

Perhaps if our people do not request personal projects from our MP, some community projects can be attended to. 

Anyway, going back to the Prime Minister’s visit, as a community we are so thankful to the PM for the visit because not only has he made our people aware that they are truly part of Solomon Islands, but as well, we believe the attention now paid on us because of the visit can lead to some interest by our development partners to help attend to some of our needs – water supply, sanitation, housing and medical services.

You may not get wide publicity for any help you give but rest assured there would a grateful people that will really embrace your help into eternity far more deeply than publicity can achieve. 

On the same note I also wish to express our gratitude to the Island Sun newspaper for highlighting the PM’s visit prominently in its issue on Tuesday 15th June. 

What you have done is draw attention to us a forgotten community and thanks to your editorial team, our plight may have registered with a worthy development partner.

But thank you very much PM for visiting our island, it has taken almost half century for the visit. 

What you saw, apart from the tractor, is how we live our normal lives.

Our Chiefs, people and all of us are truly grateful to you for visiting because of the attention you have generated for us.

We thank the Premier of Temotu Clay Soalaoi for making the visit possible and our MP Nau Rangirei for leading the way. 

God bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore!


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