Dual Citizenship Bill to Parliament

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By Gary Hatigeva

FOREIGN Nationals with Solomon Islands heritage and Solomon Islanders holding on to foreign passports are anticipating the tabling and passage of the Dual Citizenship Bill 2017, which is confirmed to be tabled when parliament resumes.

Officials have confirmed that one of the much anticipated bills, the ‘Constitution (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2017’ has been confirmed for its first reading, along with The ‘Citizenship Bill 2017’.

This is something a lot of experts and officials familiar with the Bill believe will give people who have cultural connections to Solomon Islands the opportunity to take up Solomon Islands citizenship.

Island Sun took time to interview a good number of prominent figures who were part of the former Democratic Coalition for Change Government ((DCCG), who most of its policies have been adopted by the now SIDCCG, which includes the Dual Citizenship Bill, capturing their views on this.

Former Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Andrew Muaki in an online interview shared that the Bill if becomes law will surely allow for many families who live overseas that have very close and cultural ties, to gain citizenship in Solomon Islands and will also encourage those people to invest in the country.

Another official who was also part of the former DCCG now SIDCC Government and was also part of the drafting team of their policies, shared similar sentiments regarding the Dual Citizenship Bill, which he stressed have very good intentions and positive outlooks.

“In its drafting and consultation phases, the bill was obviously looking at how we can enable our nationals that have given up their legal rights to be Solomon Islanders, regain that status and even people with Solomon heritage that might see opportunities to invest in the country.

“Another aspect or positive outlook on this is to attract potential foreign investors who might have interests in the Pacific or Solomon Islands and choose to have a Solomon Islands legal connection to enable their business interests,” the official who wished not to be named explained.

Meanwhile, someone who recently came back from an official business trip suggested said with the Dual Citizenship in place, there is potential Solomon Islands can create a model to market it as another form of revenue for the country.

He then urged the government to consider nations like the Republic of China (ROC) Taiwan and others with similar status who can become great markets for the Dual Citizenship.

“Economically, we can rely on business people or millionaires from these nations to take up legal status with us that would enable them to make direct business interactions globally.

“All we need is for them to meet requirements, and one of which is to come with, say 10 million US Dollars, if stipulated in the Bill, then by having at least around ten of them, we should definitely see impacts to our economy,” another official suggested.

However, when asked about the downside of having this bill becoming law, Muaki and most stressed that application of this has to come with tough criteria and pointed out that the Bill should, also strongly restrict citizens of countries that can take up deal citizenship.

“As it stands any person from any country can take up Solomon Islands (SI) citizenship so long as it meets the grounds in the Bill.

“One obvious down side is that a dual citizen can now stand for election as the restriction imposed under section 49 of the Constitution will be lifted by the Constitutional amendment bill,” the former SSPM shared.

The Bills are expected to be tabled after parliament goes through two Reports from the office of the Auditor General, presentation of the Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands 2018 Budget and two other reports from the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Annual Report.

Around $2 Million has been projected to be allocated for the implementation programs of the Bill, anticipating its passing and enactment.