BY JARED KOLI
The Political Parties Commission is planning to connect the Political Parties Integrity Act (PPIA) 2014 to the Constitution of Solomon Islands in the current review of the PPIA through amending Schedule 2 of the Constitution.
This aims to put in measures to address gaps within the PPIA that was experienced after the 2014 and 2019 elections.
Political Parties Commission Registrar Jasper Highwood Anisi said this is so that the Governor General instead of calling for election of Prime Minister, invites the party or coalition with majority numbers to form the executive government.
One of the major loopholes in the Act was in the case of Ownership Unity Responsibility (OUR) Party which registered after the election in April 2019 and eventually form the current ruling government under Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Sogavare ran as an independent candidate, but straight after the election he rallied many of the other Member of Parliaments (MP) who stood as independents behind his newly re-formed OUR Party. He was then nominated for Prime Minister.
Following this, MP for Aoke Langalanga and rival Prime Minister nominee then, Matthew Wale claim this was illegal under the PPI Act and use the courts to stop Sogavare becoming prime minister. However, the High Court of Solomon Islands later ruled in May 2019 that the case be struck out.
Chief Justice Albert Palmer in Paragraph 86 of his ruling states that: “The problem with the PPI Act 2014 is that while it has noble and admirable intentions and objectives in its inception to promote integrity in the development and operations of political parties in the country, it had one fundamental flaw or defect in its enactment.
“While it sought to determine the process of nomination of a Prime Minister pursuant to the requirements (s) of the PPI Act, it miserably failed to institute a corresponding amendment(s) to the relevant provisions of the Constitution, in particular, Schedule 2.”
This is one of the reasons why the commission is planning to connect the Act with Schedule 2 of the Constitution so that so that the Governor General instead of calling for election of Prime Minister, invites the party or coalition with majority numbers to form the executive government.
Below is an extract of Schedule 2 of the Constitution under the heading “Election of Prime Minister.”
Calling of election meeting
1. As soon as possible after a general election of members of Parliament, or whenever there is a vacancy in the office of Prime Minister, the Governor-General shall convene a meeting of members for the purpose of electing a Prime Minister by issuing to each member a notice stating-
(a) the date, place and time of the election meeting;
(b) the place at and the date and time on which nomination papers are to be delivered to the Governor-General which time shall be not later than four days before the date appointed for the election meeting.
Meanwhile, Mr Anisi said what OUR Party does after the 2019 national general elections was legal based on the fact that it meets all the legal requirement under the PPIA 2014.
“The only thing is that OUR Party has not participated during the last election period. In order to express to the people (voters) their visions and explain what was under their Party Policy intentions. This allows the voters opportunity to vote on their Policies.”
“We want the parties to do that, however this was not foreseen during the initial drafting of PPIA. Hence, we are reacting to it,” he said.
Mr Anisi informed this paper that one of the other areas under this review is also to set a time frame for registration of new Political parties before and after the election.
He said the legislation failed to address this issue by not having time frame in place to register Political Parties.
He said the timeframe is to ensure that political parties are duly registered and able to participate fully during an election period.
As part of the review process, due nationwide consultations will be undertaken, to ensure the voices of our people are being captured as part of this process.