Don’t panic, just yet

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Senior statesman assures government still has 1 month to escape constitutional crisis

By Alfred Sasako

THE veil over whether the nation is facing a constitutional crisis over spending of public funds has been lifted, thanks to former Prime Minister Francis Billy Hilly.

Sir Francis is one of three senior statesmen Island Sun consulted yesterday on the matter. The others are former Governor General, Sir Nathaniel Waena and former Prime Minister, Sir Ezekiel Alebua, the only living Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister who is a member of the Privy Council in London.

Sir Francis said based on section 103 of the National Constitution, the government has until the end of April to be placed in such a situation.

Section 103 (1) says, “If the Appropriation Act in respect of any financial year has not come into operation by the beginning of that financial year, Parliament by resolution may empower the Minister of Finance to authorise the issue of moneys from the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of meeting expenditure necessary to carry on the public services at a level not exceeding the level of these services in the previous financial year, until the expiration of four months from the beginning of that financial year or the coming into operation of the Appropriation Act, whichever is the earlier.”

Sir Francis said “The question one can ask is why the new Prime Minister did not accept his predecessor’s budget, which would have avoided all the unnecessary confusion. I shared the same view that the government had just three months in order to pass its Budget until I looked up the Constitution.”

There should not be any panic, he said.

The other two statesmen were adamant the nation is in a constitutional crisis.

“It does not matter really whether or not we are in a constitutional crisis. The government will continue to spend public money regardless of whether Parliament approved it or not,” Sir Ezekiel said.

“Constitutionally, the government should not because any funds spent without approval by Parliament is unconstitutional and illegal,” he said.

Former Governor General Sir Nathaniel said there was no doubt in his mind that the nation is facing a constitutional crisis.

“Once Parliament does not approve the 2018 National Budget by Thursday [today], we are in a constitutional crisis. There really isn’t much room to move,” he said.

But former Prime Minister Sir Francis said the government has one month on its hands to sort out the budget.

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