2016 Christmas Message by Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Damukana Sogavare

PM Sogavare: I am duty-bound to consult the Provincial Premiers on how best we should move forward together in completing this important task.

Fellow Solomon Islanders, Merry Christmas and happy peaceful celebrations wherever you are throughout the country and abroad. On a personal note, I take this opportunity on behalf of the Democratic Coalition for Change Government to bring to you season’s greetings as our nation and people celebrate another Christmas. I am sure many of our people will be travelling home to their villages to join their families for the occasion. We wish you safe journey and happy celebrations.

As it is customary, throughout our more than 5000 villages in our country, activities are organized to mark the occasion. May these activities help us to fully appreciate the importance of happy co-existence and to break down the little barriers that are repugnant to the progress of our communities! In this regard credit must go to our chiefs and village elders for providing the leadership that means a lot to the unity and happy co-existence of our people. I take this opportunity to commend your commitment and wish you all of God’s blessings as you continue to hold our people together.

I acknowledge the presence and the huge contributions of all our development partners and the great work they are doing in our country. Solomon Islands would not be what it is today without their tremendous contributions. They have been the pillar behind the progress of our economy through their involvement in the strategic sectors. For this we are thankful.

I take this opportunity to wish our development partners a joyous Christmas as they celebrate the occasion with us. May the bond that bind us continue to grow in the spirit of mutual respect. We are looking forward to elevate our partnership to greater height in 2017.

Solomon Islands continues to enjoy peace and an environment of trust and confidence as a result of the great work undertaken by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands since its arrival in 2003. More than a decade out, we can say with confidence that peace and normalcy has truly returned in our Happy Isles. Of course we acknowledge that the enjoyment of this environment brings with it its unique challenges.

As a nation and people we must appreciate that we have a huge responsibility to ensure that the country remains united and peaceful; where love, tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and acceptance abound. We have a duty as the generations of today to leave behind a legacy that our future generations can with gratitude enjoy with their children together with people who want to make Solomon Islands their home. This wonderful prospect is made possible by the great work that the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands had been doing in the country over the last 13 and half years. It is just appropriate that the acknowledgement of this great work is featured in such occasion.

I take this opportunity to wish the Special Coordinator and all members of the visiting contingent happy Christmas celebrations and a new year that promises greater cooperation, understanding and commitment by our people to ensure that Solomon Islands remains a peaceful, and united country where love for each other abound. In this connection, I acknowledge the preparedness of the RSIPF under the leadership of the Commissioner of Police to take over the responsibility when RAMSI leaves.

The Government is pleased to forge a cordial working relationship with the private sector through the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce. We would like to take this commitment to greater heights in 2017 through the proposed joint council which we are in the process of formalising through the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding.

I know 2016 has not been an easy year for all of us, but I acknowledge the commitment of our private sector to the development of our country. It is not always easy to work in an economic environment that may not be conducive to achieving our objectives. Your commitment is worthy of commendation. May you have a blessed Christmas and a new year that promises prosperity for all of us!

I acknowledge the efforts and commitment of our public servants and members of the discipline force in carrying out your duties to serve our people on this blessed occasion. It has not been an easy year but you have demonstrated patience and commitment. The title ‘Public Servants’ or ‘Ministers’ for that matter when it comes to political leadership denotes servanthood, a fitting title for people who are in the profession of serving the public. The Challenge for those of us in that category is whether we have been leaving up to the expectations of our people as servants of the public.

Let us take advantage of this blessed occasion to renew our commitment by emulating the character of the one who some 2000 years ago took on the form of a servant in order to save the fallen race.

I take this opportunity to wish all our public servants, members of the discipline force and political leaders at all levels of our government system a blessed Christmas and prosperous New Year, 2017!

I wish also to take this opportunity to thank our churches and religious organizations throughout the country for the moral and spiritual support rendered to our people. It is a fact that the majority of our people professed affiliations to one of the many denominations in our country. This fact alone makes the duty and responsibility of our church leaders a solemn one, one that we cannot take lightly. It is a fact that religion has a profound influence in the lives of our people. It influences the way they relate to legitimate authorities of the land.

Despite the odd occurrences of criminal activities, our country is very peaceful and our people generally law abiding when we compare with what is happening in some parts of the world. This is credit to the works of our churches and faith based organizations. I take this opportunity to wish you God’s richest blessings during this blessed occasion and look forward to a cordial working relationship with you in 2017.

Reviewing 2016

Indeed, we have travelled 12 challenging, and eventful months since the last Christmas. As a country we experienced challenges in all facets of our development endeavors. The national budget had to be implemented in a very stressful environment. The operation of the incomplete Public Financial Management Act 2013 has not been very helpful. This clearly affected the smooth implementation of a number of national projects. This problem is now being addressed.

Cabinet will in due course consider the supporting Regulations before the Minister of Finance will bring them into force to legalize the operations of the important responsibility of proper management of Public Funds without causing undue delays to the implementation of the Budget. Despite these difficulties we have, by the Grace of God, made huge strides in our reform agendas in preparing the economy to develop our areas of strength with the assurance of greater benefits to the country in years to come. Improving our investment environment therefore is a single most important policy objective.

The pursuance of this policy objective to attract quality investments through a major reform of our investment attraction strategy to develop our areas of strength is progressing very well. At its completion the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) legislation will properly organize and coordinate the operations of our fragmented investment attraction strategy to be more focused on the investment needs of the economy, targeting quality investments.

Restoring and consolidating peace and unity in the country is the main driver of our economic development strategy. I am confident that together with the tremendous input of our development partners, our fiscal strategy have targeted the sectors and developments that matter to the achievement of this noble objective. Setting the economy on a sustainable path is an integral component of and objective of this development strategy.

In reality, this is observed in the construction of important infrastructures that will support the private sector as the engine of growth to do business in an environment that is conducive; supported by the ongoing institutional reform of our land tenure system, political party and electoral systems, strategies to stamp out corruption, and program to address the outstanding issues of the ethnic crisis to mention a few.

We have a duty to set the country on the path of growth as a measure to cushion the effects of externally created shocks. As a matter of fact it is the very structure of the country that placed many of our people in the subsistence sector that acts as a saving grace against the full brunt of externally driven poverty. This is a lesson that we cannot ignore. It is for this reason that the empowerment of our people in the rural area remains a strategic policy objective of our comprehensive rural development program.

As a matter of fact in an imperfect economy like Solomon Islands, employment can only be realistically addressed through a strategy of engaging our people in meaningful resource based economic activities in the rural area.

This is a policy area that the Government will continue to develop. The Government is of the view that our efforts to get our people to involve in economic development must not unnecessarily disturb our people’s reliance on subsistence living. It is our only insurance against absolute poverty. Our economic strategies must therefore recognize this strength. As a nation and people, this Christmas should again remind us of God’s abundant blessings and our duty to be good stewards of our resources.

Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters

As an Island state we are vulnerable to extreme weather patterns and other natural disasters. But we are forever grateful to our God for His care and protection that despite our vulnerability we have been able to effectively cope.

This is credit to the good work of our disaster management offices at the national and provincial levels. I take this opportunity to thank our officers for the work well done, and I wish you the best of the season’s greetings. Our hearts go to the victims of the recent earth quake and tsunami in Makira, South Malaya, parts of South Guadalcanal and Shortland Islands in the Western Province. This Christmas will be difficult for you.

It is my hope that life will return to normalcy for you very soon and that you take comfort on this occasion in the assurance of Emmanuel, God with us. There is no better time to express that sense of gratitude. Let us take the opportunity during this Christmas to be thankful and to renew our commitment to uphold the principles of Christianity advanced and personified in every sense by none other than this child of Bethlehem.

Sustaining Law and Order

The need to tackle the prospect of a deteriorating law and order situation in the long run is captured in our development strategy. The deliberate and active shift in the focus of assistance from our development partners to emphasize economic growth is very encouraging. This deliberate change in emphasis is aimed at improving the capacity of the country to generate the level of economic growth needed to support a sustainable public investment program that will guarantee the creation of more jobs and economic opportunities for our growing population in years to come.

The strategic sectors targeted are infrastructures and other development assistance that will support our civil aviation, agriculture, commerce, tourism, mineral, lands and forestry sectors. With this kind gesture, we Solomon Islanders have a duty to respond positively and responsibly. The persistent threat of looting and destruction of commercial and public property including infrastructures in Honiara and elsewhere is not conducive for the growth of business and commerce. Indeed, far from the kind of Solomon Islands we want to develop for our future generations.

What Solomon Islands will be in the future rests squarely in the hands of Solomon Islanders of today. It is our hope that this Christmas will bring a change in attitude to all Solomon Islanders. A change that will be marked by improved respect for law and order and an appreciation of the efforts exerted by our private sector, our development partners including RAMSI, NGOs, our churches and the government to make Solomon Islands a better place for all.

National Unity

National Unity remains a formidable challenge for our country. Solomon Islands has come through more than a decade of constant battle against forces that threaten our unity. Whether the country will remain united in the long run depends on how we handle the issues that threaten our survival as a nation now. We would be irresponsible to neglect these issues. The Government is fully mindful of this and is taking a cautious and thoughtful approach to addressing the outstanding issues that matter to our peace process.

The report of the TRC will be discussed fully in Parliament together with a comprehensive framework for the reparation program. It is the intention of the government to carefully go through the outstanding issues and to formulate a response that will be considered consistent, without putting undue pressure on the country’s meagre resources. My appeal to the nation is we must not allow our narrow agendas to cloud our national goal to remain a united, God fearing nation. May the spirit of unity and reconciliation embedded in the message of Christmas strengthen our resolve to look beyond our immediate inconveniences to treasure our unity as one nation under God!

Comfort to 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 devote the rest of this address by sharing some words of comfort and hope to these people.

My heart goes to the people who still mourn the passing away of loved ones during the course of this year. There are some who may be losing loved ones this Christmas. It is not easy to face up with the reality that members of our family are no longer with us to celebrate Christmas. The vacuum created by their absence may seem intolerable. I would like to assure you that there is hope in the message of Christmas. God incarnated to provide hope to a hopeless world.

May you take courage in this message of hope, premised on the assurance of Jesus Christ Himself that, “He is the resurrection and the life.” The Bible could not be any clearer than that. The assurance is 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. They are safe in His loving arms.

There are people who will again be spending this Christmas in all the prison cells throughout the country. My heart goes out to you. You may be physically restricted because you have stepped in the wrong side of the law. I would like to assure you that there is freedom in Jesus Christ.

Indeed written all over the message of Christmas is God intervening to rescue mankind from the bondage of sin. This is true freedom, and one which you should really be concerned about than the temporary restrictions you now experienced. 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 that there is freedom in Jesus Christ.

I think of families that are in the verge of breaking down because of differences that seem irreconcilable. There is hope for you in the message of Christmas. It would be an insult to the efforts of heaven as manifested in the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the child of Bethlehem for you to even think that your problem is too big for Him to handle.

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. You have a duty to save it. Please take comfort in the fact that mending of broken relationship is what Christmas is all about; God reconciling mankind to himself through Jesus Christ. May that thought give you the courage to forgive and reconcile. There is no better time to do that than this Christmas.

My thoughts and prayers go to many Solomon Islanders who will be celebrating Christmas in all our Hospitals throughout the country. He who walks the dusty roads of Palestine and heals the sick is none other than the child of Bethlehem whose birth day we are celebrating. That is the assurance and hope that we should have in Him. He knows what is best for us. 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.

There are those who for lack of love and care are really down hearted and feel that life is no longer worth living. You are a child of God. There is hope for you in the message of Christmas. In Him springs abundant joy, peace and love. Indeed, He is love, joy and peace personified. You could not have a better source of comfort. “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden” is His constant call. You need to trust Him completely.
May you experience his peace and find the courage to put your worries behind and carry on with new resolve and vigor.

Finally, I take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year 2017. May you enjoy and experience the blessings of Christmas as manifested in the gift of this child of Bethlehem. Merry Christmas Solomon Islands!