Prime Minister Hou removes dual citizenship bill from parliament
By Gary Hatigeva
AT its eleventh hour, just before it is to be given its second and third reading, the government decided to withdraw the much anticipated Constitution (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2017 from Parliament.
Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela revealed that the withdrawal was in view of the reservations expressed by the Parliamentary Bills and Legislative Committee (BLC) on certain provisions of the draft legislation.
The Bill sought to remove the Constitutional prohibition on dual citizenship and to clarify that holding dual citizenship prevents a person from being a Member of Parliament.
Having it enacted will also facilitate the return and reintegration of Solomon Islands citizens by birth or ancestry who lost their citizenship by reason of marriage, forced labour or naturalisation in another nation.
It is also anticipated to provide social, economic, family, employment and study opportunities by providing ease of movement between country of origin and country of residence for eligible persons.
Besides, the Bill also aims at tapping the pool of potentials and opportunities to engage in the economic and social developments of the country with their specialties and contributions through small to large scale businesses and other development aspects.
But after days of adjournments and incomplete Parliament sittings, the Prime Minister when given the introduction for his presentation on the second reading of the Constitution (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2017, announced to have it (Bill) withdrawn from Parliament.
Prime Minister Hou explained that after receiving the BLC report on the Bill on Sunday night, he thoroughly went through it and came to find some important recommendations from the Committee.
“In fact, three recommendations but the biggest one where they said that because of the intensity and the importance of this matter that this bill should be withdrawn first…” the Prime Minister explained when declaring to have the bill withdrawn from Parliament yesterday.
This was also supported by the Attorney General, James Apaniai who provided legal clarification to questions raised on the legality of the matter.
In his explanation, Mr Apaniai explained that the constitution amendment dual citizenship bill was put in place to pave the way for the passing of the citizenship bill
“If not for the citizenship bill, there would be no need to amend the constitution,” Apaniai explained to Parliament.
Meanwhile, the BLC Chairman and MP for Aoke/Langalanga Matthew Wale in his response to the recommendations, clarified that the Committee’s recommendation was for the Constitution (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2017 to be deferred and not withdrawn.
“There are two bills before the house and there are two reports that were submitted simultaneously by the Committee.
“But the bill that is on the order paper is the Constitution (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2017, and on that bill the recommendation is to defer not withdraw.
“On the Citizenship Bill is where the recommendation of this committee is to withdraw and look at the broader policy issues where the Bills Committee raised,” the BLC Chairman clarified in Parliament yesterday.
However, he stressed that the bills can always be reintroduced to Parliament if the government decides to withdraw both bills
It is understood that now it is being withdrawn, the Bill will no longer be part of the Hou-Led government’s business to bring before Parliament.
However, officials explained that if the government is planning to reintroduce it, the bill according to procedures and processes, will have to go through the same way it went through before Parliament can deliberate on it.
Meanwhile, in reference to Order 59 of the Parliamentary Standing Orders and procedures, the Deputy Prime Minister responded that based on these orders, the announcement made by PM to withdraw the bill is final and the matter should now be removed completely from Parliament’s businesses.
“The Member in charge of a Bill may, at the beginning of the proceedings on a Bill at a sitting, announce that he withdraws the Bill. And such Bill shall thereupon stand withdrawn and no further proceedings shall be taken on it,” the DPM quoted from the Standing Orders when responding to questions raised on the BLC recommendations.
Based on the highlighted standing order, the Bill is now out and will have to go through the same process and procedures like creating a totally new bill, if it is to be reintroduced in Parliament.