Nov 23, 2020 Last Updated 12:34 AM, Nov 23, 2020

Bougainville is going through a major political metamorphosis ending one political status and entering into another entity.  The 15 years of Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Tenure has ended but continues to exist under COVID 19 State of Emergency (SOE) Orders until September this year. At the same time, the Momis Presidency has come to an end as signalled by the recent Supreme Court decision. The timing of these two significant events is probably more incidental then intentional – a government coming to an end without the confirmation of what the next government will look like and the current President also ending his tenure. This leaves open the issue of a credible leadership “fit for the purpose” of creating a new nation. 

The Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) and the ABG were seen as pathways to a more permanent destiny and the people have already expressed their desire. The search is now on for the next captain of MV Bougainville towards the destiny.        

President Momi’s impending departure has opened the “flood gate” with about 26 candidates intending to contest the Presidential seat. President Momis has been the single most prominent leader for Bougainville because of his longevity and the high levels of leadership he has occupied over the span of 48 years (1972-2020). The flood waters are naturally bringing an assortment of candidates and practices in such a big field and voters are faced with an enormous task of choosing a credible candidate especially when little is known about some of the candidates from the current field. The lack of a stand out candidate is probably a reflection of the leadership monopoly that the outgoing President has held over four decades and also the death of some prominent leaders in their prime. The impact of the Bougainville Crisis on leadership is beginning to bite when most educated potential leaders were forced to leave Bougainville and hence foregone the opportunity to grow experiential leadership on the ground.  

The Post Referendum Agenda.

Any post crisis situation is usually characterised by a plethora of agendas to be addressed ranging from the rebuilding of broken lives through to the business of rebuilding state institutions (government) and social economic infrastructure.  Over the 15 years Bougainville has addressed many of these to some extent but there are some remaining key agendas that must be addressed in the forthcoming term of the Bougainville government.

Agenda one (1) concerns the 98% Vote - The Bougainville people have overwhelmingly set the goal post for independence at the recent Referendum.  Though non-binding, the expectation of the people throughout the three regions has been set and they will not settle for anything less. Autonomy in all its different forms such as free association has been rejected by the Vote. This is the first and foremost agenda for the incoming President- that is to secure independence for the people of Bougainville and spearhead the building of a new nation.  Securing independence will demand the exercise of political leadership at all levels - the national level, throughout Bougainville’s three regions and in due course the international arena.  It will require “political savy” more than managerial experience in an office.  The principle document guiding this agenda is the BPA. Familiarity in the nuances around its conception and its implementation over the last nineteen (19) years is fundamental because a theoretical knowledge will not be an adequate substitute. The ABG and the people throughout the three regions have been preparing for this journey and will need a leader who will seamlessly fit in without the need to “push start” the new President. Bougainville is largely united but there is still a bit to be done internally but which will require political remedies. The incoming President must provide the right antidote to such situations.  There is no time for the new President to be “learning on the job”. Agenda number 1 should sort out the “big men” from the boys! 

Agenda two (2) is Nation Building. After 19 years of rehabilitation and reconstruction, Bougainville has restored to some level the basic state institutions. It has a parliament, the judiciary and the administration. However, a nation comprises more than just the state institution and includes the private sector and civil society, particularly the churches and traditional societies whose customs and practices shape the behaviours of individuals. The question of legitimacy of state institutions is an everyday discussion in Bougainville and will not disappear until a satisfactory level of efficiency and effectiveness is achieved by the three tiers of state in tandem with civil society – the state needs civil society to accept it and by doing so give it legitimacy. State institutions on the other hand have to earn it by the way it executes its policies and programs beyond Buka. Bougainville is politically exercising a level of government and administration higher than the provincial governments but a cursory look indicates its performance to be lagging behind some provinces and must be fixed going forward. Articulating a long-term vision and reorientating the state machinery, private sector and civil society towards the common vision is part of this agenda. 

Agenda 2 also involves deepening the practice of democracy and good governance within the state institutions but in the broader society as well so that Bougainville becomes a mutually reinforcing society. The incoming President must be familiar with the nation building context in Bougainville and be able to provide the right leadership in this regard.

The State and the Nation cannot prosper and sustain itself without a strong economy. 

Agenda no three (3) is rebuilding the Bougainville economy beyond the tin-sheds that currently occupy the major towns of Buka, Arawa and Buin. Bougainville’s recent history is littered with a number of failed enterprises including attempts to reopen the Panguna mine. Strategising and planning for the economy should run parallel to Agenda 1 and 2. The task of developing the economic development strategy lies mostly in the hands of the bureaucracy and the private sector but the enabling functions fall in the political domain and the incoming President should possess the necessary understanding and experience in this regard. He/She should already have an excellent understanding of the economic situation on the ground at both the overall Bougainville level and the community and family levels. The incoming President must know why the focus on the Panguna mine failed to materialise over the last 15 years and not repeat the same mistakes either in policy or strategy in order to offer new solutions in resurrecting the mine.  

Agenda three (3) is Services Delivery – Delivery of services is an agenda that is on the lips of all citizens but needs to be put into perspective in the current scheme of things. The delivery of basic services such as health, education, police, courts, welfare services etc. etc. are a normal mandate for government and civil society organisations such as Churches and Non-Governmental Organisations. Politicians have assumed this responsibility upon themselves for ulterior motives thus undermining the service delivery mechanisms. Leaders cannot make decisions and implement the same decisions at the same time as it often leads to compromising of compliance procedures and standards. Politicians should focus on the task of setting vision and enacting policies and legislation.

It is important to distinguish between “wealth distributions” that many intending candidates are already advocating on face book against the need “to grow the economy”. Those advocating distributional politics are failing to understand basic economics and also do not understand the current trends of the national and international economy. Voters are likely to be left disappointed during the next five years if the distributional sentiments are not tailored in an appropriate manner. PNG’s economy has been on the decline for a number of years now and the downturn is likely to continue. Bougainville is currently dependent on PNG for its revenue. In order to distribute wealth in the form of “services delivery”, it must first be generated because you cannot distribute money that you don’t actually have. 

Strengthening the small holder cash crop economy is relevant but is only part of the picture. Major efforts must be placed on large enterprises (mining, agriculture, fisheries, tourism etc) with the potential to significantly drive the economy. The current level of services delivery will continue to happen but not at significant levels until the economy is up and running. Bougainville cannot build new feeder roads until it is able to fix and sustain existing ones. Bougainville’s need for economic development requires leadership that understands the economic situation in totality in order to provide the right leadership for economic development– mobile ATM approaches have limited impact over time. Connectivity into neighbouring economies should also be part of this agenda. There is some low hanging fruit in terms of enterprises (industry and agriculture) which have not been tapped into in Bougainville. 

Qualities of the next President – Having stated the key agendas above, we now turn to the subject of “the leadership qualities” the incoming President should possess. Implied in all of the above agendas is the quality of a “thorough understanding” of where Bougainville is currently at, in its political, historic and economic evolution. The incoming president must know how Bougainville and its people came to where it is today and where it is going. This understanding should not be a book knowledge but should be one accumulated through years of active engagement with the people throughout the islands. The notion of engagement is called “Hanmak” in Tok Pisin or evidence of your past engagement with the people.  Without the hanmak candidates may be seen as Eagles which hoover in the sky and only come down to earth to devour prey and then fly back to the sky. 

The ability to lead Bougainville and deliver on the 98% vote is the paramount quality required of the incoming president. As noted above, this requires “political craftsmanship that cannot be learnt in a formal classroom or acquired in an office”.  Experience in political leadership (especially in the crisis and post crisis years) is essential while familiarity with the national political leadership scene would also be valuable. Experience in high level consultations and negotiations and relationship building with a multitude of stakeholders is also an important quality especially at this time when the Bougainville leaders will be consulting with the PNG leaders over the 98% Vote.    

The rumours of large volumes of cash ready to be dished out indicates external hands at play. The normal leadership qualities trumpeted during elections of honesty, transparency, accountability and good governance are also important traits of a good leader.  Voters should look beyond the cash handouts and vote for leaders with a proven track record in these values. The challenge for the incoming president is to institutionalise these behaviours at all levels of the Bougainville bureaucracy including the Parliament so that it becomes a norm overtime.  

It may not be possible to find a single candidate that has all the leadership credentials demanded of the incoming President by the situation in Bougainville.  Should such a scenario eventuate, the new President should in the first instance pool together a group of politicians from the Constituent seats, who are imbued with the necessary understanding and the qualities described above. The President must be willing and able to mobilise the expertise of the educated Bougainville diaspora in PNG and elsewhere.  This has not happened since the formation of ABG and Bougainville has consequently stagnated.   

To the Voters, you have voted 98%. The exercise of your democratic right will determine whether you usher in a “Joshua” to bring the people across the river to sovereignty or someone who will deny you your passage to the promise land.

This article is intended to highlight the key agenda in post referendum Bougainville and the type of leadership qualities demanded of the incoming President by the current situation in Bougainville. It is hoped that the analysis will assist voters in deciding the most suitable candidate to be the next President for Bougainville. The analysis should also assist intending candidates to assess their own suitability for the position and the task at hand. 

In the recent Vanuatu national elections, Dr Andrina Thomas stood for the rural electorate of Espiritu Santo. In this article, which was originally published on the DevPolicy blog, she offers some reflections to Elise Howard.

In the 2020 Vanuatu elections, 18 women campaigned and none of them got through again, just as in 2012 and 2016. I think the blockage is vote buying and candidates having no money for sponsorship and campaigning. We also need to work better at capturing votes. Support for women to run for elections needs to move out of workshops in lavish hotels in Port Vila and instead get down to the constituencies to encourage the grassroots to resist bribery and vote for women.

I want to say to the young women of Vanuatu, do not be discouraged! If we fail the first time we need to keep trying and believing in ourselves. The meaning of FAIL is First Attempt In Learning. Therefore, we can’t stop now just because there is still corruption and rampant vote buying in Vanuatu. Vanuatu defeated its fundamental principles of independence by selling passports, which is our identity, and selling land, which is our mother, because of money. It’s our civic duty to continue to preach good governance, and hopefully one day when we have more ethical people in power, better management, leadership, and governance will happen in Vanuatu.

Political parties and vote buying

In my small village of Matantas in Big Bay in the rural island of Espiritu Santo, the 150 people who were registered voters had to choose between 12 different political parties. For those voters to make their choice at the polling station, they are thinking of the people who paid them, who bought and gave them bags of rice, bags of kava, made promises for road contracts, and people who gave them money. It’s very difficult for someone like me to go in and say: “Look I’m not going to bribe you, but I’m going to come and tell you why I want you to vote for me because I have ethics and integrity. If I go into Parliament tomorrow, I will make sure I will not misuse your constituency development funds and I will report back to you how these funds were used”. But it’s difficult to compete with rampant bribery and corruption which is how men have always been voted into Vanuatu’s Parliament.

In Vanuatu our voters are handed a booklet of ballot cards when they go to vote. Their vote is supposed to be secret. When they go into a voting booth, the voter picks out the card for their candidate and puts this in the ballot box. For voters who aren’t literate, they are picking out a face from a photo on the card. In this election, political parties kept the voting cards – they were putting money in and returning the cards with money inside, a thousand vatu, and then getting people to vote for them. After the election the parties check whether any of their votes are missing. There was one incident when one husband went and beat up his partner with a stick and then asked her who she voted for, her response was that she couldn’t find the card for that person, so she took another one and put it in the envelope. The other problem is literacy. When people don’t know how to read, the only thing they can identify is pictures. In one instance on Malekula, a candidate only had his name on the card but no pictures. So, he was highly disadvantaged and now we have to ask, why did the picture not come out? This is something the Electoral Commission will have to look at.

Political parties and gender equality

The big political parties come with a lot of money and there’s no chance to compete against them. The smaller parties, who campaign transparently, are not going to dish out money. It is difficult to get the sponsorship that the older and bigger parties have because there are limited sponsors in Vanuatu.

Despite a lot of awareness around gender equality, when women are actually nominated, they are not nominated in their own right. Political parties will make a woman stand with another man; she is like a token. The parties say yes, we understand there should be gender equality but when it comes to vote casting, it’s usually the men that get the highest vote. So that’s why the women said look, we’ve tried. That’s the reason why the Vanuatu National Council of Women created the Leleon Vanua Democratic Party, a woman-led party on 15 May 2018. Access to funding is problematic which makes it hard to field contestants as our fundraising strategies were not sufficient compared to the bigger parties. We didn’t field any contestants in 2020, but we will do so in 2024. We want future leaders with good ethics and integrity standards.

Capturing votes

The next strategy is undertaking advocacy work for my community by spending time educating people and answering their questions. I don’t just do good governance educational work, I also do financial literacy training. I’ll be helping the Mamas who are market vendors, and other Mamas with their small businesses, on how to save and manage their business properly and improve their small businesses to prosper. There are 3,000 market vendors. If all these women actually rallied behind me, I would have gotten elected, but the problem is they don’t know me personally. I need to come down to their level, get them to trust me, and maybe I will do better in 2024.

Support for women to run for elections – what do we need?

International donors have run many programs to support women to run for elections. The aid funding usually benefits the INGO groups. They run lots of meetings, always with the same people, in expensive hotels rather than reaching out to the grassroots. Internal assessments are done, but not a lot of work is done with communities externally to sensitise them and encourage them to vote for women. Gender equality means going down to the communities to convince both men and women to vote for women.

This article first appeared on www.devpolicy.org

It’s election campaign time in Vanuatu where women candidates will try their luck once more to outpoll their male counterparts and end the ‘zero women in parliament’ drought with hopes for a place in Parliament.

The Vanuatu Electoral Commission on Tuesday announced the names of eligible candidates to run for the 2020 election. Of the 234 total candidates, 223 are men and 11 are female candidates.

The number of female candidates could increase in the coming days once the ineligible candidates fix their outstanding debts with various government departments. They have 72 hours to do that under the election laws of Vanuatu.

In 2016, ten women contested the national election. None made it into the national Parliament.

Of the 11 female candidates declared by the Electoral Commission yesterday, seven are rallying under different political parties while four are contesting as Independents.

Anne Pakoa, who will be running as an Independent for one of the four Port Vila constituency seats believes women prefer to run as Independents for various reasons.

“Personally, I think political Parties do not accept them, secondly parties’ policies are not agreeable to the candidate and in particular women, they must pass some crazy male-based criteria to be accepted into a male-dominated party.

“It takes a lot to be a leader in a small island developing state like Vanuatu where we are culturally and spiritually strong,” she said.

Pakoa believes women must go the extra mile to prove themselves worthy to run for office.

The poor representation of women in Vanuatu parliament is a continuing trend. Since Independence, only five women have been elected into parliament, the most recent in 2008.

With only 11 women declared eligible to run for the election during the first announcement on Tuesday, the slow response from government departments to the Electoral commission on the candidates’ eligibility is also causing delays and doubts for many candidates.

One of the prominent women leaders whose name was not read out during the declaration of eligible candidates, Dr. Andrina Kl Thomas, said she has already settled her outstanding fee of Vt 9000 (approximately FJD$167) and is ready to start her campaign at her constituency on the Island of Santo very soon.

“We have to give it a go and I will continue to influence, educate and advocate for the adoption of good governance ethics and integrity standards aimed at improving institutional performances.”

While women in Vanuatu continue to struggle to make it into the national parliament, there have been some positive developments in the representation of women in higher government positions and in the private sector.

Prior to the launching of the Vanuatu election campaign on Tuesday, a panel discussion in Port Vila hosted by the Vanuatu Dialogue Live Team considered the theme ‘the rise of women does not mean the fall of men’.

The Vanuatu election campaign is now ongoing and will end at midnight on March 16 ahead of polling day on March 19.

A final official declaration of eligible candidates will be announced this coming Friday.

Nauru's President out

Preliminary results are in for Nauru’s elections, and it appears President Baron Waqa has lost his seat.

Nauruans went to the polls today and preliminary results are in for all but one electorate.

Also to miss out are sitting MP Riddel Akua, former President Ludwig Scotty and former Foreign Minister Dr Kieren Keke.

Opposition member Matthew Batsiua, who was also a former foreign and health minister before  becoming embroiled in a battle with Waqa’s government over his exupulsion from parliament, ran a close fourth in the Boe constituency, behind Waqa.

Yaren consistuency will be represented by the only two women elected so far, Charmaine Scotty and Isabella Dageago.

The new President will be decided amongst the successful candidates.
Results from the final Ubenide constituency are believed to be imminent. Justice Minister David Adeang is amongst the 12 candidates contesting there.

Elected to parliament so far are:

Aiwo Constitutency

  • Rennier Gadabu
  • Milton Dube (returning)

Anetan Constituency

  • Timothy Ika
  • Marcus Stephen

Anabar Constituency

  • Maverick Eoe
  • Pyon Deiye

Boe

  • Martin Hunt
  • Asterio Appi (returning)

Buada Constituency

  • Shadlog Bernike (returning)
  • Bingham Agir (returning)

Meneng constituency

  • Lionel Aingimea (returning)
  • Kyde Menke
  • Tawaki Kam (returning)

Yaren constitency

  • Charmaine Scotty (returning)
  • Isabella Dageago

 

By Anish Chand

Former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has said he will continue from where he left off in 1997 to ensure a constitution like the one his government enacted in 1997.

In a speech at University of Fiji's School of Law on Tuesday this week, the SODELPA Leader said he remained confident and hopeful that “our country will return to genuine democracy and constitutional legality and legitimacy."

He also outlined what his vision was for Fiji.

“In the event SODELPA, the party that I have been entrusted to lead, wins the majority number of seats in parliament in the 2018 general elections, I shall resume the work that Hon Jai Ram Reddy and I started in the 1997 constitution. And this is to develop in full consultation with the people of Fiji, and with an all-parties consensus decision in parliament for a review of the 2013 Fiji constitution,” he said.

"The purpose of such a review will be ensure that the constitution genuinely reflects the wishes and the aspirations of “We the people of Fiji.”

He also elaborated why he was opposed to the usage of “Fijian” as the common name.

“For an indigenous iTaukei, to be called a “Fijian” means much more than being a citizen of Fiji. It means being registered in the iVola ni Kawa Bula (VKB) (Fijian registry) as a member of a customary landowning mataqali (clan). It is for this reason, that it has been very hard for many iTaukei to understand the Bainimarama regime’s rationale for unilaterally appropriating the name “Fijian” for use as the common name of all Fiji citizens,” he said.

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