Big bill, careful

The Aoke/Langalanga MP, Matthew Wale
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Strata titles bill not carefully scrutinised, Wale requests more time

By Gary Hatigeva

MEMBER of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga and Chairman of the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC), Matthew Wale, has called on the government to give Parliament especially, the Committee of the Whole House, more time for the thorough scrutiny of the strata titles bill.

The Aoke/Langalanga MP stressed this in fear over what he deemed, as a weak review of the bill in its initial stages before it was brought into parliament.

He said this bill is so technical and even those who will bare primary responsibility for its implementation have expressed a lack of technical knowledge in it, which he stressed as an additional worry.

The BLC Chair further stressed that this alone cannot stand against it but it points to the areas of need to ensure that the bill if it is enacted, can be implemented smoothly, and the recommendations of the bills committee mostly point in the same direction.

“Sir as you alluded to earlier that the bill is a big one, and so I ask that the Prime Minister allocate more days than usual, for the committee stage, maybe all of next week, so that we can do justice to the parliamentary mandate for supervision, oversight and scrutiny of legislations.

“This is because, I am not sure if this bill has received a detailed review in both caucus and cabinet including the bills committee,” Wale added.

Therefore, he suggested that there is a risk anticipated, because the bill has too many clauses and schedules, but more so, because it is both too technical and complex, it will not receive the proper due parliamentary scrutiny the constitution expects of members as legislatures.

“So please, allocate good amount of time so we can deal with it properly, and as you can see, from yesterday [Tuesday], only 10 clauses were in the whistle-blowers bill, and these 10 clauses had taken us to scrutinise it almost or all of yesterday, which it shouldn’t have happened because it is a straight forward bill,” the Aoke/Langalanga MP added.

The government had earlier announced that they are anticipating the debates of the bill yesterday, put down for scrutiny in the committee stage today and have passed, but the BLC Chairman thought that with the nature of its size, any passage of it will likely be an unjust to the bill.

But Wale however reiterated that parliament needs to do justice and not take the call into consideration for what he termed as, a very important bill.

It is understood that the Strata Titles Bill 2017 has a total of 171 clauses, with a good number of subclauses that come with it.

Strata title according to the Bill’s objective, is intended to facilitate higher density development in Solomon Islands while protecting the interest of persons who buy units in such developments.

It was also initiated to help address the issue of shortage of affordable residential accommodation in Honiara.

On an international view, it is a form of ownership devised for multi-level apartment blocks and horizontal subdivisions with shared areas, and the ‘strata’ part of the term refers to apartments being on different levels, or “strata”.

Strata title was first introduced in 1961 in the state of New South Wales, Australia, to better cope with their legal ownership of apartment blocks. Previously, the only adequate method of dividing ownership was company title, which had a number of defects, such as the difficulty of instituting mortgages. This term also applies to house-type strata title units in Australia.

Other countries that have adopted the Australian system (or a similar variant) of apartment ownership include, Canada (Alberta, British Columbia), Singapore, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji, Philippines, India, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and neighbouring Vanuatu.

Other countries have legislation based on similar principles but with different definitions and using different mechanisms in their administration.

Strata Title Schemes are composed of individual lots and common property. Lots are either apartments, garages or storerooms and each is shown on the title as being owned by a Lot Owner.

Common Property is defined as everything else on the parcel of land that is not comprised in a Lot, such as common stairwells, driveways, roofs, gardens and so on.