Prime Minister, Hon Manasseh Sogavare today received the report of the Think Tank on Malaita National Projects.
The report was presented to the Prime Minister by the Team Leader of the Think Tank and Secretary of the United Democratic Party, a coalition partner in the ruling Democratic Coalition for Change Government, Mr Barnabas Henson at the Prime Minister’s Office in the presence of his team members.
The Think Tank was mandated by the Democratic Coalition for Change Government to find out why National Projects on Malaita did not progress as expected since independence.
Presenting the report to the Prime Minister, the Think Tank Team Leader, Mr Henson said his team is pleased that as a result of consultations they held over a period of 70-days, it came up with the key findings and recommendations as well as a holistic development model for Malaita Province contained in the report.
“Our key findings include two very important concepts. Firstly, Malaitans share a profound spiritual connection to land according to culture, and therefore it is the land that owns tribes and not tribes owning the land.
“Secondly, there is a fundamental need for Malaitans to put their house in order. Within this context, we must resolve people disputes over land before embarking on any major development interventions.
“Briefly, the report is divided into ten parts, which include an introduction, aims and objectives of the Think Tank and the scope and expected outcomes.
“The methodology we have adopted is the consultation process and our consultations covered Line Ministries, key stakeholders and the Malaita Provincial Government and Resource Owners. Our consultations covered two important questions and they are: Why is development not happening on Malaita? And how can we progress development on Malaita?,” Mr Henson said
Three of the ten recommendations in the report which Mr Henson highlighted during the presentation ceremony are as follows:
The construction of a highway to be called the Ma’asina Highway from north to the south, including power, water and communication;
The reprioritisation and repackaging of Malaita Projects to ensure target and focus on one project at a time. The two of the projects endorsed in this regard is the Bina Habour Industrial Development Project to ensure its commencement during the term of the current DCC Government as well as the Fiu Hydropower Project which is now in progress to ensure its completion; and
The Facilitation of Tribal Identification and Tribal Family Tree and Land Boundaries on Malaita to address the issue of land dispute.
In response, an elated Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed the report and thanked the Think Tank for a ‘job well done’.
He said idea for the establishment of the Think Tank emanated from the Coalition Executive of the DCC Government to address
the fundamental question of why National Development Projects proposed for Malaita never eventuated since 1978.
The Prime Minister said as the political government leadership at helm of Solomon Islands Government, the Democratic Coalition for Change Government must take responsibility in addressing this longstanding question, by talking to Malaitans to obtain their views as to come up with a solution for development in Malaita Province.
“The issue of the non- availability of land as the major obstacle to development in Malaita may be too broad a statement to make without really looking into why Malaitans are not availing their land for development.
“This report will be very, very helpful. It is a precious document put together by Malaitans themselves after consulting Malaitans at all levels to ask them the fundamental question as to why no National Development Projects earmarked for Malaita eventuated.
“With this report the Democratic Coalition for Change Government can now say we have the thoughts of the people of Malaita on the way forward addressing the question so that the government together with the people of Malaita can develop Malaita. This report is a meeting of minds and I am very honoured to receive this document,” Prime Minister Sogavare said.
Meanwhile, the report will be further presented to the DCC Government Coalition Executive and the Government Caucus before it will be released.
The membership of the Think Tank includes the following:
Mr John Harunari OBE, a former Permanent Secretary, who serves as the Deputy Think Tank Team Leader and Secretary;
Mr Bernard Bata’anisia, a former diplomat who also serves as a Consultant on the Fiu Hydropower Project;
Mr Genesis Kofana, National Consultant Land Reform in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey;
Hon Leslie Kwaiga, a Member of the Malaita Provincial Government;
Mrs Jennifer Fugui, National Consultant Social Sector in the Prime Minister’s Office; and
Mr Sam Alasia, former National Parliamentarian who currently works as a Private Consultant.