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Looking at corruption, drunk driving and domestic violence

CORRUPTION, drunk driving and family violence were all subject matters that filled the pages of the local Solomon Islands press last week and corruption in the Solomon Islands was featured in a live broadcast on Radio New Zealand International.
In the New Zealand broadcast, Ms Ruth Liloqula, the Chairperson of Transparency Solomon Islands, commented on the fact that a bill to establish an independent commission against corruption and a freedom of information and a whistleblowers bill had not yet passed parliament.
It is my hope that the Solomon Islands Government, heeding the words of the Prime Minister who called for a “United effort” by his Ministers, will ensure the passage and adoption of those bills well before the next general election in 2019.
The same Radio New Zealand broadcast quoted the Solomon Islands Police Commissioner as saying,
“We have demonstrated that we are investigating cases of corruption. And we will continue to do that if people break the law. And I think that the public expects that that the public wants to see that from the police force. But likewise where we have had cases of police doing the wrong thing we have taken disciplinary action there as well.”
Mr Varley was of course, referring to the good work of the RSIPF task force, code named JANUS, in the investigation of allegations of corruption and making arrests in co-operation with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Finance.
Working closely with the Ministry of Finance the police investigators have been provided with a paper trail which has resulted in the real evidence necessary to lay charges and make arrests.
As I previously wrote (and worth repeating) dealing with allegations of corruption is often more difficult, however, especially for police officers who haven’t had the required skills training and experience.
In many cases of corruption there isn’t a specific scene of crime, usually no eye-witnesses or fingerprints, or a paper trail, and complicated all the more in the Solomon Islands for, according to a recent people’s survey on accountability, people are often too afraid to report corruption.

There are three recognized strategies needed to fight corruption and these are deterrence, prevention and education. All three are important but the first is deterrence and effective sentencing of those found guilty of corruption plays an important part.

Any anti-corruption body, whether an independent agency or the police must have certain prerequisites for effective investigation of allegations of corruption. These can be summarized, briefly, as follows:

Independence – Investigators must have independence and be free from any political or undue influence.

Adequate power – Legislation must be available to ensure investigators have the tools, the power, to undertake their investigations and be able to prosecute offenders.

Resources – Investigating cases of corruption is often protracted and time consuming and money must be allocated in an anti-corruption budget to be seen as an investment for a cleaner society.

Confidentiality – Confidentiality is the key to successful corruption investigations in order to prevent interference or compromise investigations.
Legislation must be available to prosecute those making any unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.

Investigators – It follows that those involved in investigating corruption matters must be properly trained and be professional in both their work and conduct.

I don’t know what training RAMSI gave to the detectives of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) in respect to the investigation of corruption cases but with the proposal to have 52 AFP and New Zealand Police Trainers continue to work with the local police service it might be appropriate for them to give added technical training to cover the proactive investigation of corruption matters referred to the police.
Whatever additional training the police might get investigating corruption, until legislation is introduced and on the statute books to provide for whistle blowers protection and until there is an effective Bribery Act, they will be handicapped in fully dealing with the scourge of local corruption.
I see, too, there is a wider issue in the Solomon Islands that not only pervades corruption, drunk driving and domestic and family violence and involves the need for the country to develop a stronger sense of moral character in its citizens, starting with the family, and all other institutions in society.
Corruption clearly has a moral dimension, but so do drunk driving and family and domestic violence.
 One needs to think hard about how to buttress the ethical and moral foundations of human behavior that besets the Solomon Islands.
A start might be made with children at school being informed about the negative influence of corruption on the country.
Start from the bottom up and combine it with a bottom down influence, which means the government must show how to govern without corruption and what better way than to ensure the passage of the outstanding raft of anti-corruption legislation.
Training the children in sound morals and a sense of civic duty and service to humanity is at the root of addressing a whole range of social ills, many of which go beyond corruption, as I have highlighted.
 Enhancing the participation of women in public life and in decision making in all spheres of human activity will also make a difference.
 Corruption is not an inevitable evil. It is something that will, in due course, yield to education and the inculcation of moral values, such as those that can be found at the foundation of the Christian faith.
As much as I believe zero tolerance must be the watch word on corruption, I believe the time is right for zero tolerance to be demonstrated, literally, in tackling the ongoing problem associated with drunk driving, particularly in Honiara.
It would be my suggestion to lower the present allowed blood alcohol content (BAC) to zero, making it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in a driver’s system.
Those motorists caught by the police during sobriety checks and failing random breath tests must be effectively punished by the courts, combining confiscation of driving licenses, heavy fines, sentences involving (name and shame) community service and imprisonment.
Consider also –
Mass media campaigns
Mass media campaigns spread messages about the physical dangers and legal consequences of drunk driving. They persuade people not to drink and drive and encourage them to keep other drivers from doing so. Campaigns are most effective when supporting other impaired driving prevention strategies.
Ignition interlocks
Ignition interlocks installed in cars measure alcohol on the driver’s breath. Interlocks keep the car from starting if the driver has a BAC above a certain level. They’re used for people convicted of drunk driving and are highly effective at preventing repeat offences while installed.
Mandating interlocks for all offenders, including first-time offenders, will have the greatest impact.
Yours sincerely
Frank Short