BLC rejects government claims on Bill

Chairman of BLC, John Maneniaru
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CHAIRMAN of Bills and Legislative Committee, John Maneniaru has accused the Sogavare-led government of “hijacking” parliamentary process.

This was after the government did not provide any financial assistance and ample time to allow the BLC to complete its inquiry into the Constitutional Amendment Bill in the nine provincial centres as required under Standing Order 71, in accordance to Section 62 of the Constitution.

The Bill aims to extend the 11th Parliament until December 2023 instead of dissolving in April 2023.

Prime Minister Sogavare will make the second reading of the Bill tomorrow, followed by debate and committee of supply.

If Parliament passes the Bill tomorrow, election is expected to take place in April 2024.

Maneniaru confirmed to media yesterday in response to Special Secretary to Prime Minister, Albert Kabui who claimed BLC failed to conduct any inquiry within one month after the Bill was noticed in Parliament on August 5, 2022.

He said BLC has convened on August 9, 2022 immediately following the receipt of the Constitutional Amendment Bill by Parliament and the Bill having being noticed by the Speaker.

“I convened a meeting of the BLC on August 9 on the planning and discussion of the inquiry into the Constitutional Amendment Bill and again on 11th August,” he said.

Maneniaru said five meetings have already been convinced by the BLC to date with three more meetings held on August 28th (Sunday), September 1st and 5th showing that the committee was busy planning the inquiry into the amendment.

“My committee resolved to call for submissions from the public from 17-31 August and again decided to extend the period until the end of September and we have already received submissions from the public with more expected.

“I have also written five letters, including two to the Prime Minister on our plans as well as on requesting submission of reports from Members of Parliament on their consultations in their respective constituencies,” he said.

Furthermore, Maneniaru said a number of BLC members are also members of the Public Accounts Committee which held inquiries into the Supplementary Appropriation Bills from 17-24 August.

“The supplementary appropriation bills hearings demand our attention to ensure that we scrutinise the bills carefully and thoroughly and it’s unrealistic to expect our members to work on two separate and important bills at the same time,” he said.

Further to that, Maneniaru said he had also met with the Prime Minister to update him and request his support for resources for their work and he thought he (PM) was receptive of the work of his committee was going to undertake.

He said BLC has submitted a budget of $3 million to complete the inquiry, but at the end PM Sogavare has responded indirectly with a “no” answer.

Therefore, the BLC Chair rejected the claims by the SSPM Kabui that the committee was perhaps lagging in its work.

In Parliament yesterday, Maneniaru has raised his disappointment towards Sogavare for bypassing BLC during the Special Adjournment Motion.

“I am very disheartened, very disappointed by the fact the prime minister and the DCGA have seen it and decided to my Bills and Legislation Committee mandate and Parliamentary responsibility understanding order 71.

“This for me is a sad moment indeed of democracy. A fresh and new history penetrated down into our parliamentary democracy history that a deliberate decision was made to bulldoze into our parliamentary democracy process for the first time,” Maneniaru said.

Speaker Oti raised a point of order to cut short Maneniaru’s intervention.

Oti told Maneniaru that the points he raised should be more appropriately raised when Parliament comes to consider that particular bill.

Maneniaru in return accepted the Speaker’s ruling.