Countdown To 2020

Vanuatu goes to the polls in 10 months time. We are on political countdown trail, and the heat is on. It’s indeed a race, either to the top or a race to the bottom and eventually to oblivion, for many. Next year (2020) will be a very significant one for us in many respects: Vanuatu celebrates its rubee jubilee (40 years of independence), graduates from LDC status, hosts the 51st Pacific Islands Forum meeting, and a host of other events.

She has set for herself an ambitious national sustainable development plan (NSDP). Baseline studies and a mini-census are currently underway to ascertain various development indicators to give effect to our national policy priorities.

On stability, we have fared better so far compared to our two Melanesian neighbours – PNG and the Solomon Islands.

The PNG Prime Minister has already lost several state ministers in ‘a spate of resignations from his People’s National Congress Party’ this week, according to RNZI.

Solomon Islands has just voted in a PM a week ago much to the disapproval and dislike of a lot of its citizens who took to the streets and

started ransacking Honiara the way they did just prior to their being forced to live under the watchful eyes of RAMSI for over a decade.

Thank God we have a very deeply-rooted cultural chiefly system in Vanuatu that is wellrespected and which has ably sustained the fabric of our

multicultural society ever since the dawn of independence.

We have taken this privilege for granted. I think in 2020, as we celebrate our Rubee Jubilee year, the Government needs to honour and award our chiefly system immensely for having been a key unifying force for 40 long years since our emancipation and deliverance from British and French rule.

The million dollar question here though is, will general elections (GE) 2020 reflect well on our people’s awareness, maturity and seriousness over what sorts of national political leaders to vote into power to run this country and implement ‘The People’s Plan’ or will we have a mixed bag of genuine, visionary leaders together with base metal?

Will we have learnt some hard and important lessons by then or not? Will our voters do the right thing to vote for development-oriented leaders

across the country or will many of us still fall for candidates who will deceive us with more empty promises that they know they will simply be unable to honour?

Of all constituencies across the country today, Tanna seems to have taken the lead in realising the dire need and sheer importance of having good, qualified, and experienced national leaders.

The majority of the cadre of members of parliament (MP) they voted into power in the 2016 national GE and the recent bi-election reflects this

change in the people’s mindset and leadership drive. They have done well.

In brief, they have had enough of wearing ‘the same old cap’ as their very own reggae band Naio once sang. News from very reliable sources on the island reveals that a big reason why Hon Nipo won the bielections instead of the other top contender was simply to do with this islandwide perception and standard of what kind of leadership material they want

to see in national parliament.

To say it in plain layman’s terms, if you are insufficienty educated, kindly step aside! That’s top on the list of selection criteria right now on this volcanic island renowned for its very strong cultural and traditional practices, whether you live along the coastal South or within the vast

interior of Tanna Sul. They want development, not the ‘kitchen and belly politics’ that the rest of us still struggle with.

For over 30 long years Tannese lived with this kind of voting attitude and it has not worked for them.

So they decided to change the formula. It is showing great results, and that’s what you get when you have educated MPs, MPs that know how the

Government machinery and system works, who can build networks and linkages, and have credibility to negotiate with development partners,

MPs that have substance, experience, exposure to international development thinking, MPs that have prowess, political drive, and

SMART vision.

Despite the stiff competition on the island, place their MPs of that calibre together and you get a political powerhouse that has to be reckoned with

both at home and at national parliamentary leadership levels. The rest of us who are disadvantaged with barely 3 or less MPs what do we do?

Some have recognised the need to have good leaders, while the rest of us still vote in some people who are lost in the jungle even before they walk through the entrace into the popular ‘Red Roof’.

They make huge unfulfillable, unexecutable promises and talk about ‘new

political vision’ and workable policy solutions, but their understanding of policy is vague and super shallow. Fact is, the types of policies we have in Vanuatu won’t change dramatically.

Rather, what’s lacking is leadership. ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership’, as John C Maxwell once said. You look at the track record of these individuals in Government or elsewhere, they have next to nothing to show.

As we approach the time of political refreshing, it is important that we change strategies like the Tannese and a few other islands have already exemplarily demonstrated. On the year of our Ruby Jubilee, vote for

leaders, not followers.

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