May 09, 2021 Last Updated 7:04 AM, May 7, 2021

The outstanding service of the Clerk to Solomon Islands’ National Parliament, Taeasi Sanga, has been recognised with the RAMSI Special Coordinator’s Award for Women. Johnson Honimae profiles the inspiring story of this quiet achiever.

Through lengthy budget debates, heated motions of no confidences even riots, for more than a decade, Taeasi Sanga has quietly made sure that Solomon Islands’ National Parliament could go about its business; never thinking of herself as anything other than a servant of the people. Now this humble woman has been recognised not only for her commitment and dedication to the job at hand but for her quiet leadership of the efforts to reform and strengthen her country’s supreme law-making body.

On March 7 at the annual RAMSI’s Women’s Breakfast, Mrs Sanga was presented with the 2013 Special Coordinator’s Award for Women. Echoing what many in the Solomon Islands already thought, RAMSI Special Coordinator, Nicholas Coppel said Mrs Sanga in her role as Clerk to the National Parliament was an example not only of a highly effective administrator but a person of exemplarity, tenacity and dedication.

“Persevering during the hardest of times during the tensions when funding had all but dried up and parliament became a target for militant activity, she has, in the past decade, also proved to be a quiet but determined agent for change, keen to strengthen and develop the institution she has served for most of her professional life,” Mr Coppel said. Born in her village in East Malaita, with the assistance of traditional midwives, Mrs Sanga travelled at the age of three to live in the wilds of Papua New Guinea with her missionary parents.

After completing her training in New Zealand, she returned to the Solomons where despite her humble beginnings, Mrs Sanga rose by the time of Independence in 1978, to become personal secretary to Solomon Islands’ first Prime Minister, Sir Peter Kenilorea. She joined the staff of the National Parliament in 1979 as a Hansard reporter.

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As RAMSI prepares to downsize, Solomon Islanders are taking responsibility for the welfare of their communities as JOHNSON HONIMAE found out during a series of community outreach meetings recently.

Communities in the multi-million dollar Gold Ridge Mine area of East Guadalcanal were among some of the worst affected by the social unrest that led to the deployment of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) 10 years ago this July. Although the mine has been back in operation for several years, the communities are now having to grapple with the changes coming to RAMSI. The Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI are together to ensure ordinary Solomon Islanders understand what is happening as RAMSI transitions. Representatives of the Government, Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and RAMSI are visiting communities, schools and provinces to explain what the new smaller, police-focused mission will look like. At a recent series of meetings in villages around Gold Ridge, communities displayed a strong desire to build on the gains facilitated by RAMSI’s presence in the country over the past 10 years. The transition of RAMSI should actually be seen as an opportunity for Solomon Islanders to take full responsibility for the leadership of their country according to the Solomon Islands Government Assistant Secretary responsible for RAMSI, Derek Manu’ari.

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While getting into politics is a challenge in any country, for a Solomon Islands woman, it appears almost impossible. “We are all still worrying about our day-to-day lives and getting food on the table. We haven’t reached that place where we can push that aside and unite on common issues, like better education,” says Atenasi Ata-Wasuka, who once held ambitions of a career in politics but now is not so sure. There have only been two women elected to Solomon Islands’ parliament in the 34 years since independence. The first was Hilda Kari in 1989.

The second is Vika Lusibaea who won the seat previously held by her husband, the former militant turned politician, Jimmy Lusibaea, through a by-election in August last year. According to Ms Ata-Wasuka, the Solomon Islands political landscape is ‘fickle’. At national elections, the average turnover of MPs is about 50%. Disbursements of MPs’ discretionary ‘constituency development funds’ are notorious for rewarding voters or ‘wantoks’, rather than based on addressing community development needs.

MPs are regarded more like ATMs instead of advocates for their community’s broader needs. Political parties are usually only active just prior to and during elections and MPs once elected into parliament often cross the floor with little regard for policy or ideology. This fluidity of Solomon Islands politics also presents a challenge for female candidates who cannot rely on established parties for support or political experience.

Solomon Islands’ traditional belief in ‘big man’ leadership also means that leadership in many communities is seen as exclusively a male domain. Ms Ata-Wasuka believes that a lack of a common national agenda for women and of active consensus-building around women’s issues contribute to why women find it difficult to be elected into parliament.

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Some people have heard the phrase ‘RAMSI’s transition’, and think this means the mission is packing up and leaving but this is not the case. What RAMSI is doing is changing and adapting to what the Solomon Islands needs from the mission now. Subject to final decisions, it is planned that: • The police will stay for at least another four years; • The military will leave in the second half of the year; and • Most of RAMSI’s development assistance will be absorbed into bilateral development assistance programmes of Australia and New Zealand, as well as some multilateral donors from July 1, this year.

If all goes according to plan, at some point in the second half of 2013 RAMSI will become a police-focused mission. These plans represent the most significant change to RAMSI since its arrival in the Solomons on July 24, 2003 and they result directly from the progress that has been made in restoring security, government finances, economic growth and a functioning bureaucracy. RAMSI’s Participating Police Force (PPF) has been stepping back from frontline policing and shifting its focus to capacity development of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. Over the past year, PPF has withdrawn from 10 provincial police posts throughout the country.

These changes recognise the improved capacity of the Royal Solomon lslands Police Force (RSIPF), as well as the fact that RAMSI has almost completed the task of creating a safe space in which Solomon Islanders can take the lead and shape their future. Today, law and order has been restored and Solomon Islands is a safe place to live, visit, do business and even to celebrate the diverse cultures of the Pacific. The past year was a busy and very positive year. The country hosted the Oceania Football Confederation Nations Cup, the highly acclaimed Festival of Pacific Arts, the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, as well as the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—all without a major or even any minor security incidents.

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Appointed Chairman of the Solomon Islands Public Service Commission in 2009, Eliam Tanirongo is clear about the pivotal role the country’s Institute for Public Administration and Management (IPAM) is playing in the on-going efforts to strengthen and reform the public service. Here, he speaks with Qila Tuhanuku about the progress and achievements of the institute, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.

“ IPAM was already going down the drain and then during the period of unrest, of the tension (1998-2003), it was not able to do its work at all. “But straight after the RAMSI partnership was formed, they came to help us look at what we need to do to rebuild Solomon Islands. I think one of the first places RAMSI looked at to work with in the public service was IPAM. “They (RAMSI) sent advisers to help the Minister of Public Service to relook at how IPAM could help rebuild the public service so IPAM was revived or resurrected with the input of advisers and assistance from RAMSI almost a decade ago.

“Now the Ministry of Public Service sees IPAM as the first place where things are happening to rebuild the public service especially in grooming officers who are newly appointed to the service. “This involves not just feeding them at induction level but also providing public officers with training that offers them some idea of the core responsibilities of the public service especially in the ministries like human resources management.

“We have developed a human resources management strategy for the entire public service which now is being translated into different programmes. “In the Ministry of Public Service and with IPAM, we now have a human resources taskforce and they have also established the human resources management forum as the result of the strategy. “IPAM now develops courses so that public officers in different ministries, even in the provinces, can come to IPAM and be taught the basics of human resources management—something that was not happening before.

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