Government welcomes election funding offer

National Parliament of Solomon Islands
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THE Government has welcomed Australia’s offer to fund the National General Elections in 2024.

This after Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong last week offered to fund the elections in 2023.

Her offer was made public through the media prior to the tabling of the Constitutional Amendment Bill on Thursday 8th September 2022 to defer the 11th Parliament to December 2023.

Initially, the term of the 11th Parliament commenced on 15th May 2019 and was to end on 19th May 2023.

Parliament has passed the Bill without amendments after 37 of the 49 members voted for the Bill in the second reading and third reading to pass the bill.

As such the elections should be held in April 2024.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele said it is not true that the government has rejected the offer.

“We will respond formally to the offer as soon as we make the decisions here (Parliament) in terms of this amendment bill.

“We look forward to discussing with the Australian government on the details of that offer in consultation with the Electoral Commission, so we know what our priorities are and where that help should go,” he said.

“As much as possible we are trying as a government to preserve the good will of Australia so that it is not misplaced or seen as an attempt to divide the country or interfere in the domestic affairs of Solomon Islands,” he said.

However, Manele said the offer made by Australia through the media is rather insensitive.

“While acknowledged the offer and appreciating Australia’s ongoing support to many of our sectors including employment opportunities provided for our people under the seasonal labour scheme, the timing of the offer is rather insensitive.

“I wish to remind our partners that as we continue to build trust between our countries, the use of the media in the conduct of bilateral relations can harm relations, especially when it is done at a sensitive time,” he said.

Manele said sadly, the Australian election offer since becoming public is now debated domestically.

“I wish to remind our partners that Parliamentary democracy is one of our shared values.

“Let us mutually respect each other, the government of the day and each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

In support of the offer, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said “We look forward to Australia’s offer to assist us in funding the pre-requisite electoral reforms and the conduct of the national elections.

“They’ve offered now, so you get ready brother to fund the costs. It’s a big cost, Mr Speaker. The electoral commission needs a lot of money,” he said.

Moreover, the Minister of Communication and Aviation, Peter Shanel said the government welcomes Australia’s offer to assist the general elections.

However, he said if Australia wants to assist in the elections, they have no problem with that as long as it’s not a political funding.