Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Teach a Man to Fish

September 7th, 2010 · 5 Comments

The last time that Microkhan checked in with Jimmy “Rasta” Lusibaea, he had just found the Lord after a lifetime of sin. The former head of the Malaita Eagles Force (MEF), the Solomon Islands’ most feared militia, Lusibaea had spent years defending his peoples’ turf against ethnic rivals. The MEF was once so powerful that it managed to kidnap the nation’s prime minister. No mere armchair general, Lusibaea was celebrated for his battlefield feats of derring-do, which once included the very A-Team gambit of outfitting a bulldozer with a .50-caliber rifle and then burrowing the makeshift tank into an enemy’s fortified bunker.

Lusibaea vowed to leave all that violence behind when he was saved, but he apparently is not done with public life. He is, rather, now a part of the Solomon Islands government—albeit in a post that doesn’t immediately appear to take full advantage of his talents:

The new cabinet in charge of the Solomon Islands includes a former logging industry businessman as forestry minister and a fisheries minister facing murder charges…

Former militant Jimmy Rasta Lusibaea, a leader of the Malaitan Eagle Force during ethnic tensions in the country before 2003, now holds the fisheries portfolio.

Mr Lusibaea has served a stint in prison and is facing charges of murder. His case is set down for November.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to the dilemma faced by new Solomon Islands prime minister Danny Philip, who put together this cabinet. After so many years of turmoil, the nation doesn’t have a huge pool of executive talent to draw from, and men with power on the streets do need to be rewarded for offering their political support. Furthermore, Lusiabaea could always make good on the threat he issued last February:

“There’s enough guns to start again…A rebel group don’t need 10 guns. When they walk through the town with their powerful weapons, we count them off – that’s my gun, that’s my gun, that’s my gun. If we kill, we get it. That’s how we build our armoury.”

The real trick here is to convince the likes of Lusibaea and other newly minted ministers to hand over day-to-day operations to competent officials—and, of course, to keep their hands out of the till. But I get the sense that the “stick” of an independent judiciary will be necessary to ensure that the cabinet doesn’t drag the Solomon Islands down a kleptocratic path. And that particular branch of government has historically proven the hardest to build.

(Image via the Sunday Star Times)

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Jackal

    I wonder how this compares to Gusmao and East Timor which had some riots etc in 06 (I think Australia rushed in some troops to help with that). I recently read Samantha Power’s excellent biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, and the Solomons’ situation (and the presence of Anzac forces in both) seems to echo some past and current issues there.

    My understanding is that having both de Mello with UNTAET and Gusmao, who was/is a principled leader (and a former militant to boot) who still had a power base was quite important for that transition. Not sure Jimmy’s cut from the same cloth!

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jackal: Ha! No, Lusibaea is certainly no man capable of saving the world. Time will tell whether he is even capable of preserving the Solomon Islands’ fishing stocks.

    I wonder if the Australian public has the stomach for long-term intervention in the Solomon Islands. The country is on the rebound from a very chaotic situation, and security will be dicey for a while.

  • LA Mahn

    he is not capable and dumb, he is just a wild boar let loose with alot of weight to throw around….he wont make a good politician….how do you think he became wealthy,,,by the barrel of a gun of course..he stole, he is a thief, and unworthy of a position in the Big House…he sucks man!

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @LA Mahn: Thank you for the comment. I’ve been following the Lusibaea case a bit, and I see that he is about to be sentenced:

    http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=57334

    I’ll be curious to see how the public reacts. I hope that the situation remains entirely peaceful.

  • Jimmy Rasta on the Skids | Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

    […] to time. Thanks, then, to the commenter who recently showed up to offer his two cents regarding Jimmy “Rasta” Lusibaea, the former ethnic militia leader who had become the Solomon Islands’ fisheries minister. Our […]

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