Gov’t split over TG Bill

Bills Committee recommends for it to be withdrawn

By Gary Hatigeva

IT has been revealed that the government camp was split over the status of the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation in parliament.

This was after it was noted in parliament, from the report of the Bills and Legislation Committee, of its strong recommendation for its withdrawal.

Insiders told Island Sun that the matter had got the government bench talking amongst themselves, and sources further revealed that a majority have actually supported the Bills Committee’s recommendation to have the bill withdrawn.

However, a few including two Malaita MPs and one from Guadalcanal, have insisted for it to be tabled and pushed on passing it through parliament.

The Committee had called for the withdrawal to allow for the Government to have a commission that should research into the cultural anthropology of the various traditional governance systems in our country.

At the same time, a thorough research should be made into the growing jurisprudence around customary law, customary rights, customary inheritance, tribes, sub-tribes, clans, and such other pertinent issues, and a special study to be made into the place, role, and voice of youth and women in traditional governance systems in our country.

Meanwhile, the Bills and legislation Committee also noted in its executive summary of its enquiry conducted into the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill 2018 from September 19 to October 5, 2018.

“Forty four witnesses appeared before the Committee. Almost all witnesses expressed the desire to have the Bill withdrawn and the policy issues further developed and taken back to the public in a broader and robust consultations process.

“The Committee notes that the consultations methodology culminating in the Bill was shallow. The policy suffered from the lack of a thorough anthropological study of the customs and groups and units that exist under customary law and practice,” the Committee states in its report.

It was also noted that the Committee had come to realise during the course of the hearing that the Judiciary, the Bar Association were never consulted. “This is a serious deliberate omission”.

“As important but marginalised groups, the women and youth were not meaningfully consulted. Nor were the Churches consulted meaningfully.

“The lack of rigorous study on the subject matters has resulted in a superficial consultations process, driven by noble but shallow policy, which in turn, has resulted in a bill that is simplistic,” it adds.

The Committee according to its report had been spending much time deliberating on its recommendations to the House.

“The subject matter of this Bill is neither one to be trifled with, nor is it a candidate for experimentation. Custom is core to our tribal community and identity.

“Legislation dealing with custom must be informed by thorough research, informed policy, rigorous intellectual debate and engagement, and a robust wide and meaningful consultation. None of these exist to support this Bill,” the Committee stressed.

In applauding what they regarded as, the government’s noble intention to give legal recognition to Chiefs, and the various customs, the Committee however highlighted that they are of the considered view that the TG Bill has too many inadequacies to achieve the said noble intention.

“Consequently, The Committee begs the government to withdraw the Bill. Further, the Committee prays that the government consider the recommendations in this report before revising the policy and processes to bring legislation to Parliament on this subject matter,” the group added.

However, despite early rumours of the likely recommendation, the Minister responsible for this bill had insisted for the bill to be tabled, and had put pressure on those involved in its drafting and realisation to ensure that the bill is tabled and passed.

But a good number of MPs from the government side when interviewed have confirmed and also shared similar concerns with that of the Bills and Legislation Committee.

It was also revealed that this bill was never a priority of the current government, but was forced to make its way up through political pressure.

Sources further revealed that this bill came under the interest of one political party group within the Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition Government, but not all including the Prime Minister.

Insiders also told Island Sun that while he doesn’t have the support for it to be included in the priority list, the PM because of political fears, chose to allow for the Bill to go up, knowing it will get the opposition from parliament, so he doesn’t get the direct blame for stopping it.

The Bill was enlisted for Parliament’s deliberation on Friday, pending approval from the Committee of the Whole House, but sources say calls for it to be withdrawn will remain high on the agenda.

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