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Friday, April 28, 2006

Resuscitating leaders from the ashes: by Jack Maebuta

Editor's note: This articles is written by Jack Maebuta and published in the Weekend Magazine section of the Solomon Star Newspaper and Online News today (28/04/06). His commentary focuses on how our leaders can be resuscitated, or revived, from the ashes on "black tuesday (18/04/06)".

The recent rioting, looting and burning which was politically fueled by the election of Snyder Rini on 18 April turned the popular Central Honiara's Chinatown into ashes.
Over the past few days media coverage was centred on this recent development in the political history of Solomon Islands.

Most of the analyses provided political and economic framework.

Kabutaulaka suggested, "...there is a need to establish statutory regulations that would facilitate the development of political parties, regulate the conduct of politicians, and ensure that the process of selecting the Prime Minister is transparent". Kabutaulaka's suggestion could provide political engine that could solidify the fluidity of the political party system in Solomon Islands.
In the economic front, Finance Minister Peter Boyers commented that: Most economic activity will remain unaffected by the riots, given most of them are conducted outside of Honiara. This was attributed to the fact that key drivers of growth in the economy are forestry, fishing and agriculture. Forestry and fishing account for two-thirds and 18 percent of export revenue respectively.

On 26 April, the Prime Minister resigned on the floor of Parliament after seeing that he does not have the numbers to defeat the motion of no confidence.
While this has resulted in joyous jubilation in Honiara let us not forget the ashes - the remains of Chinatown.

Before the ashes are excavated lets muddle through them in search for true leaders.
If the two days of rioting, looting and burning of shops was triggered by alleged corrupt leaders, which gave rise to ousting Rini's Government on Wednesday, do not let this change of government bury the ashes of Chinatown.
It is my humble plea that for leaders to lead tomorrow, they must learn from the ashes of Chinatown today.

For me, searching through the ashes for true leaders is a reality dictated by the "Law of Process." This would entail that leadership, as a process is developed daily, not in the day when you get into parliament.

This was amplified in the words of Benjamin Disraeli: "The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes. Good governance is a facet of personal life. It is a duty with righteousness. "What a person does on such a disciplined, and consistent basis gets him ready to be a great leader at the right time. For instance, Demosthenes of ancient Greece became the greatest orator by reciting verses with pebbles in his mouth and speaking over the roar of the waves at the seashore and he did it despite having been born with speech impairment.
"It is this same dedication that is required of anyone to be a great leader tomorrow."

Solomon Islands image has been tainted with the recent riot, looting and burning.
Nonetheless, leadership ability is not static. No matter if it is going to take someone to lead from the ashes, he can get better. Leaders of today and tomorrow need to learn from the ethnic crisis and the recent rioting and looting. The First Aid tip for resuscitating leaders from the ashes is that of high integrity and dedication in serving Solomon Islands citizens.

Leaders with high integrity and dedication make their influence grow. Such leaders should be knighted if they eradicate corruption. There is an old saying: "Champions don't become champions in the ring - they are merely recognised there." That's true. MPs are not champions because they won the election. Voters need to realise that they should elect MPs with high integrity and dedication to serve the nation - "to lead is to serve."

It is in Parliament that we recognise our MPs. Some are recognised for their distinct services to the call of leadership as lawmakers. Others are recognised for being dispensers of funds. Roughan (2005) likened such Parliamentarians to walking ATMs - Automatic Teller Machines. This is because such Parliamentarians' attention are taken away from their primary role as lawmakers to fill their time up as dispenser of funds for projects, school fees, ship fares, medical expenses, traditional feasts, and so forth. It is common to see many Solomon Islanders hanging around their members' home, waiting for the handout such as help in financial difficulty and hearing the good word on a submitted project.

Most voters recognise their MPs on the basis of such monetary assistance rather than assessing them on their primary role as lawmakers. The ashes of Chinatown should point all voters to the primary role of MPs as Solomon Islands lawmakers. As such all voters over the next four years should audit their MPs and see if they are performing their duty as lawmakers. This is a very easy task. Just listen to the live coverage of Parliament meetings and run audit trails of your MP's contribution to Parliamentary debates. This is a sound assessment to see whether your MP is performing or not. Amidst the smoke and ashes of Chinatown let the leaders resuscitate themselves and move the country forward.

As a Solomon Islands citizen, my analyses of the ashes are simple. It is not the critics of the rioting and looting that count, not the change of government because of alleged corrupt practices, or where the government of the day could have done better.

I would give credit to leaders, who are actually in the arena of action; who are regaining sight in the smoke and whose face is marred by the ashes and sweat. These are leaders who could resuscitate the country from the ashes.
These leaders know the great enthusiasm, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause.

This breed of leaders according to Maxwell (1998) "best know in the end the triumph of high achievement; who, at the worse, if fail at least fail while daring greatly, so his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Becoming a great leader is not over night either. As our leaders are resuscitating from the smoke and ashes let them all keep learning and growing. Shake off the ashes, improve your leadership and in time you will become a great leader - living by the law of process.

In conclusion, the events of 1998-2003 and the 18-19 April 2006 rioting, looting and burning should have taught us many lessons. For me I learned a lot of leadership lessons from these events. These lessons are summarised in the words of wisdom of William Arthur Ward: "The pessimist complains about the wind;the optimist expects it to change;the realist adjusts the sails."

* Jack Maebuta, a Solomon Islands citizen, is a Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific Lautoka Campus, Lautoka, Fiji.

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