2015 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE BY THE PRIME MINISTER HON MANASSEH DAMUKANA SOGAVARE MP

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PM Manasseh Sogavare's Christmas Speech

Good evening Solomon Islands. We have arrived at another Christmas by the Grace of God who has not ceased to shed His Love upon us. On behalf of the Government I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas means different things to different people. But to Christians, which Solomon Islands professes itself to be, it is an occasion, when all saved sinners throughout the world pause from their busy schedules and reflect on the great work of salvation performed for the human race by the child of Bethlehem.

That great work of salvation begins in the humble manger in Bethlehem. Indeed, the value of the cross and what it achieved for human race was made possible by the events of Christmas. God literally condescended to identify himself with the fallen race. He did not choose a palace, nor the parenthood of the monarch of the day for his son but entrusting that solemn responsibility on the humble peasants of Nazareth. Herein lies the first message of Christmas. Humility!

Unlike any other birthdays, Christmas derives its significance from the man and what he represents, rather than the date on which it is claimed to have happened. In other words, the Child of Bethlehem is the very personification of the values, principles, and message of Christmas.

These are noble characteristic that we should all aspire to. Christ has set an example for us to follow. And at this time of the year when we celebrate Christmas, let us take the time to ponder and reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and what it means for us as Christians and the broader family of the human race.

It is also important to note that these values and principles are indispensable pillars of societal existence and survival because they have to do with and indeed vital ingredients of relationship. In other words relationship without these values is superficial and susceptible to the forces of evil.

These values and principles also remind us of our duty as responsible members of Solomon Islands societies that depend on active relationship and interdependency for survival. “I am my brother’s keeper” is the spirit. It recognizes and encourages the responsibility of caring for one another and promotes mutual respect.

Because of this, how we celebrate Christmas also matters. It is not an occasion for excessive revelry and intoxication because Jesus would not have approved of it if he were here. Neither should it be spent on unproductive vocations and activities that are geared towards self- gratification. In fact the message of Christmas teaches the very opposite. Christmas celebrations would be more meaningful when we live the message rather than celebrating the occasion.

Unselfish Christian living which is the essence of the Christmas message demands of every Christian responsible stewardship of his blessings on our lives. It is our God given responsibility to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. To do otherwise would only render us hypocrites.

It has to be noted however, that this lifestyle describes a Christian’s daily living not a once a year matter. Christmas is a time when we renew our commitment to a life of giving and sharing, and teach our children to appreciate the blessings that comes with caring for others.

The responsibilities and duties carried in the Christmas message is not only confined to Christians. It would therefore be true to say that the message of Christmas is a universal message which transcends the bounds of ethnic groups, religions, denominations, creeds, professions, and affiliations.

It is a message of comfort to the weary, of hope to the hopeless, of peace to the troubled soul, of love to the rejected and dejected, of unity and reconciliation to the human race that is so divided by ethnicity, prejudice, ostracism, imperialism, and international and domestic political differences.

It is a message of restoration to lives that have been shattered by bitter separation, of encouragement to the discouraged, of forgiveness to the guilty conscience, of tolerance and acceptance to the people whose freedom have been restricted by the laws of this country. It is also a powerful message of assurance that someone does care, and of affirmation to those who needed the urge to carry on.

It is in this spirit of Christmas that I wish to address the nation.

Our people are familiar with the pain of disunity and separation. The present generations of Solomon Islanders are silent witnesses to the events of year 2000. The very fabric of our society was shaken to its cores. Any form of organized systems was on the brink of collapse and the country was under threat of total disintegration when our own people responded negatively to our national development strategies that were obviously insensitive to some aspects of our ethnic and cultural values.

Every Christmas since year 2000 reminds us of the saving work of God that held this country together. I would like to believe that it is our strong commitment to our Christian heritage and the principles of Christianity observed above that provided the only insurance against total collapse. I take this opportunity to commend all Solomon Islanders for our commitment to national unity and reconciliation.

We are not alone in our endeavor to keep the country together. In this connection I take this opportunity on behalf of the people of Solomon Islands to thank the Leadership and rank and file of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) for their great help in keeping this country together. I take this opportunity to extend the season’s greetings to all members of the visiting contingent wherever you are in Solomon Islands. May you have a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2016.

Of course our commitment to national unity and reconciliation would not be sustainable without the perception of a strong central government system that cares about the basic essential needs of our people. It is important therefore that we do not undermine the role of the central government to unite the country in our attempt to reform the county’s government system.

In this regard, I must also acknowledge that the country with the support of our development partners continues to make good progress in its endeavor to improve the quality of basic social services that are much needed by our people. I take this opportunity to thank our development partners through their resident missions in Solomon Islands for their continual support. I wish you a very merry Christmas and we are looking forward to a prosperous working relationship in 2016.

Of course these essential services must be delivered to our people. In this regard I take this opportunity to thank our teachers, doctors and nurses, police officers, correctional services officers, revenue collecting officers, all essential service providers, and the rank and file of government’s administrative service both national and provincial for their tireless effort in getting the government closer to our people during 2015.

This national objective is only possible through the unreserved commitment of our public servants who at times have to brave unfavorable working conditions to serve our people in the four corners of this country. I salute you all and wish you and your families a blessed Christmas and a prosperous 2016.

Solomon Islands is struggling to come to terms with the challenges associated with our status as a least developing country and the effects of Climate Change. Absurd as it may sound considering the relative advantage of the country in terms of our natural resources and land endowment, we cannot take our low ranking and vulnerability lightly.

The challenges call for a united effort by all resource owners, the government, and those who have the technical knowhow and capital to develop our resource base and to help us cope with the challenges of climate change. Considering the country’s reliance on natural resources, sustainable development will continue to be an issue. I would like to believe that we will act responsibly in this matter.

Whilst appreciating the huge challenge that will continue to face the country in this regard, it would be remiss of me on this festive occasion not to acknowledge the ongoing effort of those who are directly involved in developing the country’s potentials in these areas.

The activities are wide ranging. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the collective efforts of all our rural farmers engaging in small scale agriculture and forestry related activities which continue to add value to the national wealth. Every bag of copra we produce; every acre of trees, cocoa, coffee, and other commercial crops we planted; every hive of honey, liter of coconut oil, and cubic meters of timber we produced, contribute to the national effort. I acknowledge these invaluable contributions and wish all of you a joyous festive season and a prosperous new year, 2016.

I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the tireless efforts of our rural fishermen and marine farmers who continue to farm and harvest our marine resources. Solomon Islands has great potentials in these areas, and every effort exerted in the development of these resources is acknowledged. What is left is to convert these efforts into activities that would earn foreign currency for the country. This is a challenge that the Government is seriously addressing in our reform program. May you enjoy the blessings of Christmas and I wish you a prosperous 2016.

I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of our foreign investors and our private sector in the various sectors of the economy, having to work through complicated Government procedures and outdated investment laws to keep the country going. The Government is committed to improve the country’s investment strategies through the reforms in these areas and is looking forward to a closer working relationship with you in 2016.

The adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 169 targets placed a huge responsibility on the country to design and adopt development strategies that will help the country to achieve the objectives of these goals and the specific targets. The achievement of these objectives requires the total cooperation of all stakeholders to work very closely with the Government.

The importance of diversifying the country’s development base from forestry and other non-renewable resources to other more sustainable sectors is becoming crucial given the fact that these resources base will run out very soon.

I take this opportunity to commend those who are engaged in these sectors for your effort to exercise the principles of stewardship in the development of these sectors, working through outdated laws and processes. It is my sincere hope that this Christmas will bring new hope to this country in these areas.

Indeed, the efforts exerted by the private sector in these and other sectors to keep the machinery of growth working deserve our commendation. 2015 has been a challenging year for the sector and 2016 would be even more challenging as we work through our reforms to address our weaknesses. I am looking forward to a closer working relationship with our private sector in 2016.

Despite these challenges our country has always been blessed by the unreserved commitment of the private sector to continue to function. I take this opportunity to extend the season’s greetings and wish our private sector a prosperous 2016.

On this occasion, we also acknowledge the leadership of our chiefs, women leaders and village elders throughout the 5000+ villages from Tikopia in the east to the Shortland Islands in the west and from Malaita Outer Islands in the north to Rennell and Bellona in the south in ensuring that peace and stability prevail in our villages and amongst our people. I commend you for work well done. May you have a blessed Christmas and enjoy the organized festivities with our people.

Christmas is also a time when we remember the sections of our community who find themselves in situations that are unpleasant because of unavoidable circumstances. I would like to conclude this address by sharing some words of comfort to these people.

My heart goes to the people who will mourn the passing away of loved ones during this Christmas and will not celebrate like the rest of us. May the peace and comfort that can only come from this child of Bethlehem fill your hearts with unspeakable joy knowing that you will meet your loved ones in the sweet by and by. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that our loved ones are resting in the bosom of Jesus awaiting the resurrection morning.

I think of all our prisoners in all the prison cells throughout the country during this Christmas. You may be physically restricted because you have stepped in the wrong side of the law. There is freedom in this Child of Bethlehem if you open your hearts to him. Please be assured that you are in the daily prayers of fellow Solomon Islanders. May the joy of this Christmas fill your hearts with renewed hope in Him.

I think of families that are in the verge of breaking down. May this Christmas and the power of reconciliation and forgiveness it brings, help you to see through your differences. Please remember that there are others who are depending on that relationship and may that thought help you to mend your broken relationship. There is no better time to do that than this Christmas.

Many Solomon Islanders will be celebrating Christmas in all our Hospitals throughout the country. Please be assured that there is nothing that happens to us that he is not aware of. That is the assurance and hope that we should have in this Child of Bethlehem. May you experience inner peace and joy during this Christmas and please be assured that your quick recovery is the subject of the daily prayers of fellow Solomon Islanders. May you be comforted!

Our thoughts also go to the mothers of this nation during this Christmas. Some will be spending this Christmas in care centers because of broken down relationship, at hospital giving birth to a child, or in villages throughout the country trying to keep the family together. The thought that you are bringing up the future generation of this country makes your daily activities worthy of acknowledgement.

May this Christmas invigorate your resolve to undertake your solemn responsibility with renewed hope and courage! He who cares for his mother even at the point of death on Calvary promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He sees your falling tears and hears your cry. Please trust Him.

There are those who for some reasons are really down hearted and feel that life is no longer worth living. May you experience his peace and find the courage to put your worries behind and carry on with new resolve and vigor. The thought that he even cares for the sparrow that falls should be enough to give you New Hope.

I also extend my best wishes to the people with special needs throughout the country either in organized establishments or in our villages. Your burdens and cares are not strange to this child of Bethlehem who walked the dusty streets of Palestine more than 200 years ago giving comfort and healing to people who need his healing touch. We can take comfort in the fact that he is still alive and promises to take care of us.

May you take the opportunity this Christmas to renew your trust and confidence in Him who promises never to leave us nor forsake us!

Once again I take this opportunity as Prime Minister of our beloved country to wish our people throughout the four corners of the country, a very Merry and joyous Christmas and a prosperous New Year, 2016.

God bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.