Political parties warned to comply with PPIA
BY JARED KOLI
POLITICAL parties eyeing to contest for future national elections have been warned to comply with the Political Party Integrity Act (PPIA) 2014 or face prosecution.
Registrar of the Political Parties Commission Jasper Highwood Anisi issued this stern warning as United Party (UP) and Solomon Islands People First Party (SIPFP) are facing possible criminal charges for breaching Section 59 and Section 65 of the Act.
This is because the two parties have breached these sections of the PPIA after failing to produce financial statements and audit reports following the National By-election of Central Honiara in November 18, 2020.
“The commission wants to warn political parties that will be contesting future elections that this is one of the important aspects of compliance with the Act,” Mr Anisi said in a recent interview with Island Sun.
He said the commission is serious with the PPIA and wants to see the audit reports of parties contesting in the National General Elections.
“If political parties are non-compliance with the Act, we will prosecute them, we will take them to court because the provisions have been set there,” Mr Anisi said.
The commission is finalising evidences and will shortly advise the Director of Public Prosecution and National Criminal Investigation Department to lay formal charges on UP and SIPFP who have breached the Act.
However, the two political parties are bracing to defend themselves.
UP Secretary Abraham Namokari told Island Sun that they will be filing a defence to clear possible charges that will be laid against the party in regard to breaching Sections of the Act.
“The executive will meet and look at the defence in regard to the Sections of the Act. It depends on the Act and how we interpret it, so we will consider all of our grounds of defence and proceed on with it once the commission take it to court,” UP Secretary Abraham Namokari said.
President of SIPFP Joyce Konofilia said she will reserve her comment and will consult with UP before issuing any statement on this.
However, she said they have their own reasons why they did not submit their financial statements.
According to Section 59 (1) of the Act: “A political party shall, within 90 days after the close of the polling in an election, lodge with the Commission in the prescribed form a financial statement of donations received, including their sources, and election expenses.”
Subsection (2) said: “For the purpose of subsection (1), the financial statement of the political party must also include the donations received, their sources and election expense by the political party for each candidate.”
Section 65 states: “A political party that contravenes section 59 (financial statement of income and election expenses), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $15,000 penalty units.”
However, Mr Anisi said in the event the two parties pleaded guilty in court, they are liable to pay a fine. A none payment of the fine imposed by the court will see the two parties deregistered.
“On the basis that they did not pay the fine, we will deregister them – this is an administration penalty where we penalise them,” Mr Anisi said.
He said the decision of the commission can only be challenged in court through Judicial review, if parties were not happy with the decision of the commission.
“The decision of the commission can be appeal against in the court, the commission made the decision based on the section 59 of the Act that is why we will proceed on it,” he further explained.
Mr Anisi said the Commission have the discretion to give a grace period, and the power to extend it but they have exhausted all channels so they have to follow what the Political Party Integrity Act (PPIA) stated as per section 59 to proceed on with the case of the two parties.
Meanwhile, on June 29 Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner, Mrs Jane Waetara has urged candidates contesting South Choiseul National By-Election on May 19, 2021 to submit their Election Campaign expenditures accounts before 15th of September 2021.
Mrs Waetara said that this is to comply with Section 125 of the Solomon Islands Electoral Act (SIEA) 2018.
Island Sun has booked an interview with Mrs Waetara for this week to get the current status of individual or independent candidates that have contested the past national elections and have failed to submit their Election Campaign expenditures as required by the SIEA 2018.
According to Section 125 of the SIEA, a candidate whose election campaign expenses exceed $500,000 commits an offence, and a maximum penalty for this is $50,000 or five years imprisonment, or both.
Both the PPIA and the SIEA work parallel to each other. However, PPIA is responsible for political parties while SIEA deals with individual contesting candidates.
This means if a candidate is contesting under the banner of a certain political party, the party to which the candidate is affiliated with will be prosecuted by the Political Parties Commission.
However, if the candidate is contesting as an independent candidate, he or she will be prosecuted by the Electoral Office under the SIEA 2018.