Political parties face charges

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TWO political parties are facing criminal charges for failing to provide their financial statements to the Political Parties Commission for the November 2020 elections.

They are United Party (UP) and the Solomon Islands People First Party (SIPFP).

Political Party Commission Registrar Jasper Highwood Anisi told Island Sun yesterday they will shortly advise the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and National Criminal Investigation Department (NCID) to lay formal charges against the two parties.

This is for breaching Section 59 and Section 65 of the Political Parties Integrity Act 2014.

Mr Anisi said the two political parties have failed to adhere to the Act by not providing their financial statements to the Commission after the November 18 election.

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.”

Anisi said following the lapse of the 90 days, they gave the two parties a two-week grace period. Both did not respond to the commission by the end of this grace period.

“The Office have the discretion to give a grace period, the Commission has the power to extend it but we have exhausted all channels so we have to follow what the Political Party Integrity Act (PPIA) stated as per section 59,” Anisi told Island Sun in an exclusive interview yesterday.

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 parties are not complying with the Act, we will prosecute them, we will take them to court because the provisions have been set there.

“We are currently putting final piece of evidences together, when we are satisfied with all the evidences, we will compile them and advise DPP office and national police investigation to lay charge on the two parties,” he said.

Anisi said this is an administrative punitive measure in the PPIA to penalise political parties who have breached the Act.

In the event the two parties plead guilty in court, they are liable to pay a fine. A non-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, so we will proceed with the two parties on the National By-election of Central Honiara,” Anisi said.

The decision of the commission can only be challenged in court through Judicial review, if parties are 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 explained.

Anisi warns political parties that will be contesting future elections that this is one of the important aspects of compliance with the Act.

Island Sun understands that United Party members in the current parliament are Alfred Efona and Peter Kenilorea Jnr, and Peoples First Party members in the current house are Clezy Rore, Chachabule Amoi and Frederick Kologeto.

Meanwhile, just last month, June 29, Chief Electoral Officer and Commissioner, Jane Waetara urged candidates contesting South Choiseul National By-Election on May 19, 2021 to submit their Election Campaign expenditures accounts before September 15, 2021.

Waetara said that this is to comply with Section 125 of the Solomon Islands Electoral Act (SIEA) 2018.

Island Sun is seeking comments from the Solomon Islands Electoral Office in relation to individual candidates contesting the past by-elections who 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.