OUR Party accuses SIEC of ‘not independent and impartial’, pokes Australia and UNDP


The Ownership, Unity, Responsibility (OUR) Party has accused the Electoral Commission (SIEC) of being ‘not independent and impartial’.

OUR party also insinuated Australia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project (SECSIP) had an ‘influence’ on what the party is accusing SIEC of.

At the heart of OUR party’s concern are two community text messages sent by SIEC which the Party views as a “not too subtle” attempt to sway votes away from OUR party candidates.

OUR party is suspicious of the presence of the word ‘change’ in SIEC’s text messages.

The text messages in contention are:

“You are never too little to make a CHANGE. The Power is in Your Two Votes. People with Disabilities, Women, Young People, Everyone. April 17 – Make that CHANGE.” This text was sent on February 7.

“You can MAKE THE CHANGE. Use your two votes to CHOOSE YOUR Members. People with Disabilities, women, young people, everyone. Vote Blo You Pawa Blo You [Your vote is your power].” This text was sent on March 13.

In a media statement on March 14, OUR party explains that the word ‘change’ is used by rival political parties, the United Party (UP) and Umi 4 Change (U4C) in their campaign slogans to lure support.

[The UP is led by Peter Kenilorea Jnr and U4C is led by former Malaita premier Daniel Suidani]

OUR party argues, “You can see that the not too subtle message here is to change the government. Notice how the word ‘change’ jumps out to you? Yes, all in upper case and it is designed this way to leave a lasting impression on you, that come Election Day, we must vote for change, by voting out this government and voting in a new government.”

Referring to the March-13 text, OUR party said, “The message here is more express and forceful. It now has ‘MAKE THE CHANGE’ in uppercase which is clearly a directive for voters to use their voted to effect change. SIEC mandate is not to tell voters who or what to vote for.

“By making messages that associate the SIEC with various political parties, undermines the impartiality, neutrality and independence of the Commission. Or could it be that the Commission does not have control over its officers?” OUR party added.

OUR party stretched its allegations to include SIEC’s donor partners, Australia and UNDP’s SECSIP.

“OUR Party understands that the funding for the election is provided for by the Australian Government. OUR Party also understands that UNDP SECSIP also supports SIEC and has a contract with Our Telekom for these text blasts. This then raises the issue that would such messages be the result of the influence of a donor partner.

“If this is so, then clearly, this is a blatant campaign for regime change advocated by a foreign power and its agents,” OUR party said.

The statement concludes with OUR party threatening to ‘challenge any election result after the 2024 National General Election that is not in favour of OUR Party candidates’, and demanding an ‘immediate public apology’ from SIEC.

OUR party also hinted on potential legal action against SIEC and the chief electoral officer (CEO).

The SIEC has not responded to Island Sun’s enquiries for comments.

However, SIEC CEO Jasper Anisi made repeated emphasis of the Commission’s independence during his remarks on Sunday’s [March 17] electoral talkback show at the SIBC.

The Australian High Commission has not responded to enquiries for comment.

Meanwhile, on social media, there have mixed reaction to OUR party’s statement, which was published on the popular SBM Online page on Thursday, March 14.

Many have brushed the accusations aside as mere speculations, seeing something which is not there.

“The messages from the SIEC appear to promote voter engagement and inclusivity, rather than advocating for any specific political party. Accusations of foreign influence seem speculative without concrete evidence,” says one commentator.

“The word ‘change’ used in SIEC text message must not be misinterpreted to mean referring to a specific Government or Party and or a person. It is generally used to describe the change needed to see an improvement to standard of living, health services, vibrant economy, quality education, good transportations, employment opportunities, reserve business for Solomon islanders, maximum benefit from our resources, etc, etc. Forty-five years into nationhood and our people are still crying for a right formula to realise an improved standard of living for Solomon islanders,” said another commentator.

“The same old election message of ‘VOTE FOR CHANGE’ now becomes a threat! I wonder what went wrong this time with the same old phrase ‘VOTE FOR CHANGE?’,” another commentator puts it.

Few agreed with OUR party. “True one too ia issue raised by OUR Party. Time me lookim messages for change, me wonder too especially when office blo SIEC hem under PMO group,” one commentator wondered.

Speaking to Island Sun, local political commentator Andrew Muaki dismissed OUR party’s accusation of Australia and UNDP.

“Our Party’s concern is valid. If the texts were from SIEC the independence of the commission is called into question.

“However, I think OUR Party’s allegations about UNDP and Australia is uncalled for. There is no need to taint donors here.

“Secondly, OUR Party should not dictate to the SIEC how it should address the issue, if any. OUR Party has no right to tell SIEC to apologise or even to demand SIEC to issue an apology in the way it wants. That’s basically an interference into the working of the SIEC.

“They complain about SIEC not remaining neutral then they turn around and threaten and dictate to SIEC how to respond to its concerns? SIEC should be free to decide its response, if any.

“UNDP and Australia are long time donors to SIEC.”

The overwhelming majority of members of parliament (MPs) of the former government, the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA), are members of OUR party.

Caretaker prime minister Manasseh Sogavare is the wing leader of OUR party.

The SIEC is under the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Solomon Islands goes to the polls on April 17.

One comment

  1. I think there is no issue in ‘VOTE FOR CHANGE”. People in Solomon islands are sick and tired of issues they suffer such as poor economy, unemployment, foreigners like Chinese dominance in business activities that should be reserved for locals etc. Maybe a new government will address these issues

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