COMMENTARY: Political goose steps, (il)legal tackles and missed tries

The DAP members and the remaining 23 MPs from the Manasseh Sogavare-led caretaker government joined to form a new coalition on November 6, 2017. Photo: PM Press Secretariat

Commentary By Tom Tom

“Goose step” is the term for a fancy footwork in rugby. If performed properly, it could leave opponents flatfooted as the goose stepper runs past them to make a try.

Rugby folklore has it that the move was first choreographed by the great Australian rugby legend, David Campese, and perfected by the Fijian sevens maestro, Waisale Serevi.

Solomon Islands politicians, while having never graced the rugby pitch or touched a rugby ball, have done their fair share of goose stepping in the past few weeks.

But their goose steps were not on the rugby pitch. They were in hotels, via phone conversations, and on the floor of the National Parliament.

It resulted in a motion of no confidence that ousted Manasseh Sogavare as prime minister and the subsequent election of Rick Houenipwela as his replacement.

The political goose steps have left a group of politicians flatfooted and out in the cold.

Solomon Islands spectators are used to this. Since independence, the country’s political playground has hosted many goose steps, legal (and illegal) tackles, and missed tries that have left most people on the socio-economic sideline.

The recent political goose steps started in August when Sogavare gave two of his Cabinet Ministers — Jimmy Lusibaea and David Dei Pacha — the boot.

The two were among a number of Cabinet Ministers who had cast clouds over the Democratic Coalition for Change Government because of their involvement in shady — potentially corrupt —deals, mismanagement, maladministration, and for allegedly undermining the passage of the proposed anti-corruption bill.

And then in late October, nine ministers resigned and goose stepped across the floor to join the Opposition.

They were Manasseh Maelanga, Snyder Rini, Danny Phillip, John Moffat Fugui, Elijah Doro Muala, Chris Laore, Moses Garu, David Tome and Samson Maneka.

In a classic move, with a pint of Machiavellian spice, Jeremiah Manele, Rick Houenipwela and the former Opposition group welcomed them, making them believe they would have ministerial portfolios in a new government.

But, the Opposition was aware of the shady characters of some of these individuals. So, they courted them long enough to successfully move the motion of no confidence that ousted Sogavare.

After that, Jeremiah Manele, Rick Houenipwela, Steve Abana and the Democratic Alliance Party stunned Snyder Rini, Manasseh Maelanga, Jimmy Lusibaea, Douglas Ete, John Moffat Fugui, etc. with their goose-stepping skills.

It was so stunning that even the usually talkative Matthew Wale was left speechless and Dr Derek Sikua was gasping for air after moving the motion of no confidence.

When the scrum broke, the DAP and the People First Party were dashing to the try line with the Kadere Party of Solomon Islands.

The current Opposition group was left wondering what happened, as they nominated Fugui to be their PM candidate, although they knew he had no chance of winning.

As scrum half, Fugui couldn’t get the ball out of the scrum fast enough to throw a pass.

A fast-running and hard-hitting Rick Houenipwela trampled Fugui, leading his team to a 33–16 victory.

These recent events raise broader questions about the nature of Solomon Islands politics, the rules that regulate it, and the outcomes it produces. They beckon us to learn from this and make appropriate changes.

That is, however, the subject for another piece.

For now, let us hope there are no more political goose steps, (il)legal tackles and missed tries before the next general election scheduled for early 2019.

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