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ISATABU TAVULI

The Isatabu Freedom Movement Newsletter

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2 March, 2000 Volume 1 Number 4

Land is Our Mother, Land is Our Life, Land is Our Future

Inside: News, Letters to the Editor, IFM in Focus, Private View

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Special feature: Review of the PM’s Statement: "Beneath Guadalcanal"

News . . . . what’s happening out there . . . ????

NEGOTIATIONS PROGRESSING WELL

The Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) is "appreciative" of the government’s move to look at its demands as a national issue rather than pertaining only to the Guadalcanal people.

"With this outlook, the government is embarking on streamlining these issues within its ministerial departments to address the demands of the IFM. Issues pertaining to constitutional changes will be addressed through the Constitutional Review Committee. The focus of the negotiating team is to set a time framework for these activities to eventuate," says an IFM report titled: Progress Report on Negotiating Guadalcanal Demands.

The report also considered the 50% sharing of all revenue generated through investment and taxes within Guadalcanal be paid to the province as a "big win" to the Guadalcanal people if it is to be legislated and tabled in parliament in April this year.

This means that government sharing of resource should be distributed on a percentage basis to provinces from where the resource is extracted on a 50% government/50% province basis.

On the demand for a state government system, the IFM report states that the establishment of the Constituency Governing Council (as a second-tier only to the central government) in place of the Provincial Assembly and executive, and the subsequent abolition of the Area Council, as positive adjustments that would bring adequate participation of the people and representations they elect at both the national and provincial levels.

"However, the provincial executive of Guadalcanal Province will make a decision after studying the report on whether the proposed system is worth selling to its people for consideration."

On the issue of legislating measures to control the movement of people from province, the report acknowledged the support of many of the provinces, but says that "this issue will be addressed by the Constitutional Review Committee."

Provincial member robbed

A Guadalcanal provincial member claimed that he was robbed by a Malaitan acquaintance.

The provincial member, Hon. Simon Tonavi, says the man was well known to him, and whom he normally referred to as "uncle" Alick Fefele. He said that while he was shopping in a shop opposite the Guadalcanal provincial headquarters in Honiara, a taxi pulled up, Alick rushed out of the taxi, opened the door of Hon Tonavi’s hilux and grabbed a sammick amplifier and the food he bought.

"I really recognised that he was Alick Fefele and when I asked him what he was doing, he harshly answered that the goods were his."

"Ten minutes later, my driver and other passengers, including my 9 year-old son travelled to the Central Police station to report the incident so that the vehicle the criminals used can be tracked down. This matter was also reported to the multinational Police Peace Monitoring Group."

This is the kind of criminal activity that some of the unemployed Malaitan criminals hanging around Honiara are doing to the innocent people of Guadalcanal. Since the flaring up of the ethnic tension in June last year, indigenous Guadalcanal people are constantly being harassed and physically assaulted, and has resulted in a number of deaths of Guadalcanal people in the capital.

Mr Fefele who is a well known Malaita in the township was with three others in the taxi which has the registered number A6541 when he robbed Hon. Tonavi. #

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Letters to the Editor. . . .

What kind of freedom? By Geoffrey Muduioa, New Zealand

Hi there all,

Firstly, I would like to thank Paul Roughan for forwarding the Isatabu Tavuli to the network. It is quite interesting reading through the articles in the newsletter.

I, like Julian Treadaway, am looking forward to reading the issues on the philosophy and make up of the IFM. Reading through the various articles in the two issues of the Isatabu Tavuli, the recurring theme is the fight for freedom. I may be ignorant here but, I just want to know the extent of the freedom that the IFM is fighting for. Do they mean by freedom, the secession of the island of Guadalcanal from the rest of the Solomon Islands.

I can see that there are issues which definitely needed attention in the current climate of things. The pertinent question here is whether we want Solomon Islands to be fragmented or not. This is something that we have to work through in the coming months to avoid the repeat of what has happened on Guadalcanal.

IFM in Focus . . . . . . .

From the heart . . . .

This section carries the writings of Andrew Te’e, the commander of the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM). This is Part One of a series of articles. Watch out for the next editions of the Isatabu Tavuli.

LAND IS SACRED TO ME (Part One) - By Andrew Te’e, IFM

Today, people everywhere around the world are fighting for land.

Some say they own it. Others say, they do. There is a push and pull between groups that at times result in violent confrontations. I think that the legitimate owners of land could be easily identified through their knowledge about the land: its histories, stories, memories, evidence, power, etc.

Because of such land-related conflicts, there is a trend occurring world wide where many indigenous and original owners of land have been forced to shift away from "living" life, to just simply "surviving" it. This shift occurs when the original owners of land are marginalised in the name of "development" for the benefit of the nation-state. The shift is caused by government policies and legislation as well as the actions of huge corporate industries that do not respect the land and those who originally belong to it.

Given this factor, I solemnly ask the government of Solomon Islands to understand and respect our Isatabu peoples movement. Listen to our calls for change.

To us, the sons and daughters of Isatabu, land is ultimately our mother. She takes care of us all the time. In return we must take good care of her. She is God’s greatest gift to us. She was given to us by papa God, Yahweh, Allah, Visahu, Bahaullah, Bhudha, Irogli etc. Land is our "mummy" and nothing less.

Foreign people view land differently. I am black and how I view "mama" land is different from them. When I tell them my concerns, they do not understand. They say I am uneducated and a "savage".

Land is precious to me. It means very little to them. They (foreigners) only think of "development" for the sake of riches and money. They forget Isatabu belongs to us as we are to her. She is precious to us. Foreigners only come to exploit and destroy. They do not care about how they destroy "mama" Isatabu.

When I say they are destroying and killing "mummy", they say, no, they are developing the country. They still do not understand. Their lack of understanding puzzles the sons and daughters of Isatabu.

Land is mummy. The dogs, pigs, birds and other living creatures are our brothers and sisters. The waters of the rivers, streams and creeks are the bloods of our ancestors. The murmuring of the water are the voices of our great, great grand parents. The trees are our uncles and nephews. We use them only when they are needed to be used. The wind and its sound is the voice of Irogali repeating the story of old: that land is sacred to the souls of Isatabu. Every part of the land and all the things on it are "sacred" to me.

Western culture came and turned everything very differently. You cut and rape our forests and land hungrily and angrily. When I tell you, "please stop", you ignored me and shouted back, "savage kanaka, get out." You say this will make us rich and get more money. The same "con" story repeated by foreigners for the last 100 years.

You forget that I own and belong to this land. Its sacred to me. You think that because I am black and a "savage", I would not understand. But, you are wrong. You are the one who does not understand.

You dig "mummy" and plunder her riches. Can’t you hear her cries of pain? It is "mummy" who is crying. But, you would neither understand, nor believe me if I tell you. You have a "no care" attitude. Your heart is not for the land, the waters, animals, birds and all else that is on the land, all that she carries in her embrace.

You destroy uncle, the trees, grasses and the vines. Grandpa once taught me that they heal and cure. They are our medicines. They are as sacred to us as they were to our ancestors.

But the trees are slowly being cut down. The land is slowly being dug up. The waters destroyed, animals, fish, birds and insects killed and people suffer. The end of "living" and beginning of "survival" is creeping in on us. Days of suffering and hardships will soon be experienced.

You built tall buildings, high posts carrying electrical and talking wires to far away places. You call that "development". But, I never benefit from it. Instead, I have been forced to simply "survive" and not "live". Your "development" destroys many of our sacred places. I am uneducated and understand very little of development. But, I know that development should be controlled with certain measures that no mass destruction can be experienced.

This generation of the sons and daughters of Isatabu want the government to understand that we have been here thousands of years. We know the stories and the memories of our mother, Isatabu.

The government should come down to us with an honest heart so that we can talk together. The government and her friends must respect us.

This is our land. We belong to it, as it is to us. She is sacred and precious to us.

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From the diary of a militant . . .

"I dedicate myself to the struggle of the Guadalcanal people. I am determined and vow to fight against discrimination, injustice and inequalities. I cherish the ideal of a free and democratic society in which people live in peace and harmony with each other and where we are all equal before the eyes of God". - Gray George

Isatabu Freedom Movement Objectives

  1. To assist the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly in pressuring the government to respond to the demands of the Guadalcanal people.
  2. To assist the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly in negotiating the demands with the government.
  3. To cooperate with agencies and outside institutions in their efforts to find lasting amicable solutions to the root causes of this tension.
  4. To protect the human rights of Guadalcanal people from abuse.
  5. To protect the land rights of Guadalcanal people from outside interference.
  6. To revive and protect traditional cultures.
  7. To assist resources owners in becoming aware of their rights.
  8. To liaise with traditional chiefs, Big Men, elders in ensuring social harmony and resolving social issues.
  9. To prevent criminal elements or other forces from destabilising our society and threatening the rights and lives of Guadalcanal people.
  10. To promote a caring and peaceful community that is free from threat and disrespect.
  11. To promote a society that is conducive for coexistence.

Words of a warrior . . . If I am killed in this war, not a single drop of my blood will spill on the soil of another island. My blood will simply flow into the soil of my mother, Isatabu. That is good enough a reason to die, if I have to. - Latimakode

Kakabona - Koqulai shooting . . .

The Isatabu Tavuli will bring you the latest on the Kakabona - Koqulai shooting of earlier this week as soon as our reporters return from their tour of the villages. Watch out for the story as soon as it becomes available. We may even have a special edition on that shooting incident. Isatabu Tavuli is also awaiting official report of the shooting incident from IFM authorities.

 

Private View

Views expressed in this section are not necessarily the official views of the Isatabu Tavuli and the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM).

Operation Make Baby - By Gray George, IFM, Isatabu

 

Police operations on certain parts of troubled Guadalcanal should be code-named "Operation Make Baby". This may sound ridiculous and my nerve is shaking as I uncover before the eyes of the world the social impact of police activities behind those blue, rugged hills of Guadalcanal.

An operation with such a code-name is justifiable and fitting to describe the type of combat strategies employed by Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) in their campaign against Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) in the Gold Ridge area of central Guadalcanal.

A number of girls in the area have fallen victims to "pregnancy bullets" shot by police cannons.

A senior IFM field commander joked that the bullets missed the guys, got the girls in bed.

Recently, a number of girls flocked in and started pointing fingers at some Police men. "What’s wrong?" an officer barked! "Babule..!" exclaimed a distressed Mary who discovered from friends in Honiara that she was fooling herself with a police officer who is married with three (3) kids.

There are many more pregnant girls. That may be a shocking revelation, but it has now become a leading issue catching the attention of militants and relatives.

As I stood looking into the future and focussing my mind on the issue of peace and restoration of normalcy on the island I ponder over questions and doubts about the credibility and integrity of police in its maintenance of law and order.

I wonder if this is the kind and brand of community policing left behind by Frank Short and tried to be enforce on Guadalcanal.

If one is curious and wishes to investigate further the factors linking the pregnancies with police operations in the area one realises something unique and amazing. The climate in the highlands play a major role and perhaps necessitated that an operation code name as such be contemplated upon by police authorities in Honiara. Yeah, unlike in the plains where the temperature rarely falls below 20 degrees at night, the land breeze from neighbouring Tatuve creeps in demanding that "a mummy is a must". Whatever it is the Police must understand and realise that they are not US marines in Vietnam.

For better or for worse IFM vows to continue its struggle against oppressors of the indigenous children of Isatabu. IFM will continue the fight to stop these filths until the day when freedom comes to our shores.

Tuimauri bless chacha and God bless Isatabu Freedom Movement.

#

 

 

SPECIAL FEATURE . . . Review

The Prime Minister’s Statement "Beneath Guadalcanal"

Reviewed by N. Kakave, Qilukoimichi

The statement from the prime minister, Hon. Bartholomew Ulufa’alu is interesting. It provides the public with an insight into how the present government (or, at least the prime minister) views the on-going Guadalcanal crisis and the factors that contribute as underlying causes. These should help us understand the government’s thinking and explain why it has reacted to the crisis in a particular way and why certain issues have not been resolved.

The PM’s statement begins by attempting to place the crisis within a historical context. It then goes on to explain why the crisis occurred and who were the parties responsible. The underlying argument in the PM’s statement is that the Guadalcanal crisis is a result of deliberate attempts by the parliamentary Opposition (and especially the former leader of Opposition, the late Solomon Mamaloni) to overthrow the current Solomon Islands Alliance for Change (SIAC) government. This is what I refer to here as the "Opposition conspiracy thesis". That intention, the PM argues, was supported by foreign "cronies" who had an interest in causing the SIAC government to collapse.

While the PM’s statement makes interesting reading, there are a number of major weaknesses to his thesis and the way in which it was argued.

Before I explore those weaknesses, it is fitting to state here that the tone of the PM’s statement and the way in which it was argued demonstrates something I had always suspected exists in the SIAC government: a sense of paranoia that influences how the government (or at least the PM) thinks and makes decisions regarding the Guadalcanal crisis. Because the government is paranoid, it is unable to make rational and positive decisions. Every suggestion made by people other than those in cabinet is viewed with suspicion and as a threat to the SIAC government. That trend of thinking can become exclusive and keep out people who could contribute towards solutions.

Let me go on to look at the weaknesses of the PM’s statement. First, by concentrating on the argument that the crisis resulted from an attempt by the Opposition to overthrow government, - the Opposition conspiracy thesis - the PM focused the discussion away from the underlying socio-economic and political issues that affect, not only Guadalcanal, but the rest of Solomon Islands as well.

The PM’d thesis, in other words, did not address the substance of the demands put forward by the Guadalcanal Provincial Assembly and backed by the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM).

Much worse, if you read into the the thesis of the PM’s statement, you would realise that it was based on unproven assumptions and allegations. Not facts. No where in his statement did the PM substantiate his claim with evidence. There was no evidence, for instance, to prove that members of the IFM had colluded either directly or indirectly with the Opposition. Further, the PM never showed us in his statement that the IFM as an organisation was formed either prior to or after the 1997 elections. He did not provide enough facts about the composition of the IFM.

Such information would give us an idea of whether the organisation was formed for the purposes of the Opposition or independent of any agenda that the Opposition might have had.

In fact, the PM did not provide enough information to enable him (or anyone for that matter) to make conclusions regarding his "Opposition conspiracy thesis". In other words, the Opposition conspiracy thesis was an allegation that the PM was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

What the statement did show, was that the PM made enough unsubstantiated public allegations to leave one wondering whether he could be charged for liable.

Secondly, related to the above, by politicising and externalising the cause of the crisis, the PM divorced it from the socio-economic and political factors that need to be addressed if it is to be resolved. If we look at the demands by the Guadalcanal Province, we will note that they are predominantly about socio-economic and political issues; unemployment, urbanisation, land legislation, structures and systems of government, distribution of the benefits of large-scale natural resouce development, landowner rights, education system, etc. These issues emanated from policy and legislative weaknesses that could be attributed, not only to this government (in fact, less to this government), but to successive governments as well.

There are also questions about weaknesses in the system and structure of government. The demand for federal system of government (a form of state or presidential system) is an illustration of people’s dissatisfaction with the existing system. The underlying assumption in such a demand is that another system would benefit people more. This raises questions about the devolution of power, decentralisation and about which system could best cater for effective and efficient implementation.

Despite these significant issues sticking their heads out waiting to be adressed in the midst of the Guadalcanal crisis, in his entire statement the PM did not dedicate even a single line to addressing them and telling the public what the government is doing about them. Instead, he side stepped those issues completely and decided to dwell on the "politics of negativity" that exists within parliament. That is very bad public relation because it creates negative public awareness at a time when we need to be generating positive awareness and telling people what positive things the government is doing.

Furthermore, by not mentioning them does not take away the fact that governments (this one, plus the ones before it, and those that will come after) have a responsibility to address these issues. If they don’t, they will create more problems than they solve.

The issues mentioned above provide a challenge for the SIAC government’s reform programme and could be taken on board as part of the task of good governance. In fact, this is the best time to raise such issues because of the willingness (at least implicitly) of this government to provide a climate for reform. Hence, the PM’s assertion that "the upheavals that gripped Guadalcanal were the culmination of plans to stop the imminent changes" is not true. If anything, the Guadalcanal crisis demands for rapid changes - more rapid than it has been, so far - and the need to address issues that have been pending since before independence.

Thirdly, the historical background that PM provided us, has numerous errors. First, while the PM provided the reader with a historical background beginning with the early settlers of Solomon Islands as a "melting pot of ancient migration in the southern Pacific region", he never elaborated on the most important period that could explain this crisis: that from just before independence and after it. If he had given some time to consider that period, he would have dealt with the succession of demands put across by the people of Guadalcanal and the Western Solomons and the contents of those demands. That would prove that the current Guadalcanal crisis has historical context which would further prove that it has little to do with the rivalry between the Opposition and the SIAC government.

While he did mention the threats of secession, it was in passing and for purposes other than for enhancing our understanding of the current Guadalcanal crisis. Again, he dodged the important issue: Guadalcanal demands and how they represent the need to address national issues.

Apart from this, his history and the assumptions associated with it are often wrong. He stated, for example, that "Britain exerted rulership with sets of laws that were formulated specifically to appease the warring islanders by encouraging their individual culture and tradition." But, he never told us what those "sets of laws" were and how they functioned the way he claimed they did. Further, it would be wrong to implicate that Britain declared a protectorate over Solomon Islands in order to "appease the warring Islanders." No, it didn’t. The factors that motivated Britain to declare protectorate over Solomon Islands were mostly external rather than that of appeasing Solomon Islanders. In 1893 Britain colonised the southern and eastern parts of the Solomons because of fears that France, which had by then crawled into the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), might take hold of the islands and hence threaten British economic and imperial interests.

In 1899 they colonised the rest of the Solomons after an agreement with Germany and in exchange for what is now Samoa. It has nothing to do with Solomon Islanders’ interest. The missionaries and traders did contribute in pressurising Britain to protect their interest and to regulate the recruitment and blackbirding of labourers for sugar cane plantations of Queensland and Fiji. Solomon Islands, in other words, was declared a protectorate because British interests and as a result of the competition for colonies between the imperial powers of Britain, Germany, USA and France - the "scramble for Africa" had shifted to the Pacific islands in the late 1800s. It is not completely right to say it was done because of the interest of Solomon Islanders or "to appease the islanders."

I could go through the entire statement by the PM and point out errors in both facts and the assumptions associated with it. In fact, I could dissect the PM’s statement sentence by sentence. But I do not have the space to do that here. One day when I am old and grey and could come to Honiara and enjoy the privileges of that town, then I’ll sit down and do that.

For now, let me point out the fourth weakness in the PM’s statement. While it is full of political rhetoric, if you read the statement closely you will notice that it has no substance at all. Take, for example, his assertion that "in reality, it was the fundamental change that the government had started to implement that has sparked the elements." While it is not certain what the term "element" means here, such a statement says nothing substantial because the allegations are unproven: the thesis, therefore, collapses. But, worse the PM’s statement does not contribute to positive constructive discussion. That is a major failure given the situation our country is in at the moment.

Furthermore, it is what the statement does not say that matters. The fact that the PM ignored the legitimate demands of the Guadalcanal people is a huge weakness.

Fifthly, the PM’s statement was poorly written. It was so badly written that even if there were valid arguments, they were unclear and could not have come out coherently. To understand what the PM wanted to say and follow any line of argument, the reader had to search for it. The structure of the paper and the style in which it was written demonstrated that the author had a problem in logically organising thought and in using writing as a medium of expression. There is also evidence that the author had problems with English as the language of communication.

The above issues aside, it could be concluded that apart from being a political rhetoric, the PM’s statement served no practical and positive purpose in relation to resolving the Guadalcanal crisis. It could not have been politically rational either, because by concentrating discussion around the "Opposition conspiracy thesis" he would not be able to solve the crisis. And if the crisis is not resolved by 2001, it could be politically negative for the government during that election. Right now, the government needs to resolve the crisis, not point fingers and blame others.

I do acknowledge that there were weaknesses in the policies and practices of the previous government that contributed in a significant way to the socio-economic and political situations that engendered the Guadalcanal crisis. Many of us know that. However, having said that, I think it would be both naive and counterproductive to reduce the argument to saying that the underlying cause of the Guadalcanal crisis was the intention of the parliamentary Opposition to get the SIAC government out of power. The argument and discussions, in other words, should not be narrowed down to the PM’s "Opposition conspiracy thesis."

Because of the narrowness of the PM’s statement, it could not have contributed to any constructive and positive discussion. We need to look beyond the politics of parliament (between the Opposition and government) to realising that there are broader socio-economic and political issues that need to be addressed in order to solve the current crisis and alleviate future problems.

There is also a need to redirect public discussion away from concentrating on the ethnic dimension of crisis, to making people realise that the "war" (concentration of energy) should not be between Malaita and Guadalcanal peoples. Rather, it should be a movement from civil society to make governments (this one and those that will come later) more accountable and respond positively to the needs of society. This is about challenging government to accommodate change. If governments fail to respond to that call for reform, then they would be creating for themselves a situation of collapse and exacerbate the kinds of problems we now have in relation to the Guadalcanal crisis.

I conclude by asking the PM’s office to think carefully before they put out the next series of publication. We must realise that "word" is an important and powerful "weapon". How we choose to use it can either cause or solve problems. All of us want a peaceful Solomon Islands and an end to the killings between our peoples of Guadalcanal and Malaita. It is sad when the highest office in the country is used for negative rather than positive and constructive purposes.

Note that I will be providing a review of any statement put out by the PM’s office in the future.