Inquiry into emergency health bill postponed

National Parliament of Solomon Islands
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CHAIRMAN of Bills and Legislative Committee (BLC), Matthew Wale has postponed the inquiry into the Public Health and Emergency Bill 2021 to Friday.

This was after the Oversight Committee failed to present the consultation report on the Bill to the BLC yesterday.

Ministry of Health and Medical Service permanent secretary, Pauline McNeil said an officer is still consolidating the report.

As such, Wale postponed the inquiry to tomorrow morning to allow the Committee to serve the consultation report.

The objectives of the bill are to provide suitable and urgent responses to public health emergencies and circumstances that threatens the health of the persons and communities of Solomon Islands.

The bill aims to enable a range of operational capabilities and activities that will be able to quickly respond to such emergencies and circumstances and prevent, mitigate, eliminate the contamination, disease or other occurrence causing the emergencies and circumstances, and recover from them.

According to Parliament media, the BLC has started its inquiry process into the Public Health Emergency Bill 2021 which was tabled in Parliament on 12 March this year.

The Committee is mandated under Standing Orders 71 of the National Parliament to review all draft legislation before Parliament.

The inquiry process involves; calls for written submissions from a wide range of people and groups that have an interest in the bill, and conducting public hearings to gather evidences from key witnesses who will be invited to the hearings.

Since early April, the Committee had held a series of deliberative meetings on the bill with support from the UNDP providing an external technical expert.

On the 13th of May, the Committee resolved to begin with the Public Hearings at the National Parliament which will take place from 17 to 27 May, before it adjourns to conduct further hearings in the provinces.

However, due to delays, the inquiry proper starts tomorrow.

The hearings will invite key witnesses from the government officials, NGOs, CSOs, communities, and individuals to provide evidences to the Committee in its examination of the bill.

The Committee is currently calling for written submissions from the general public on matters relating to the bill, particularly in areas relating to:

• Interaction with the Constitution;

• Declaration of Public Health Emergencies (including Emergency Zones);

• Circumstances that threatens public health;

• Roles and Responsibilities;

• Offences and Penalties;

• Matters relating to Subsidiary legislation;

• Protection of persons with powers and functions under the bill;

• Provisions against misinformation;

• Establishment of the Special Fund – Public Health Emergency Fund; and

• Other relevant matters for consideration such as government policy, administration, implementation, and human rights.

During this inquiry, the Committee aims to gather as much evidence as possible on all aspects of the bill so that the Committee can report its findings and recommendations to Parliament before the bill goes through the second reading stage in the Committee of the Whole House.

Currently, a ‘calls for submissions’ is ongoing and the general public and other agencies and entities are encouraged to make written submissions to the Committee or they can request to appear as witnesses during the hearings by way of request to the Committee Chair or through the Committee Secretariat of the National Parliament. The Public Health Emergency Bill 2021 can be accessed on the National Parliament website.

The Committee is comprised of:

  1. Hon. John Maneniaru (Chairman);
  2. Hon. Stanley F. Sofu;
  3. Hon. Matthew C. Wale;
  4. Hon. John D. Kuku;
  5. Hon. Rick N. Houenipwela;
  6. Hon. Sam S. Iduri;
  7. Hon. Lilly Maefai;
  8. Hon. Derrick Manuari;
  9. Hon. Peter Kenilorea Jnr.