BY BEN BILUA
SEVENTEEN Provincial Members of Western Province turned up for Assembly Meeting on Monday following instructions from the Minister of Provincial Government and Institution Strengthening (MPGIS) Extraordinary Gazette Notice dated October 14.
The assembly meeting was held in the absence of the Premier, Speaker, Clerk and other Executive Members of Western Provincial Government.
Island Sun understands that there is case filed against the minister’s order for judicial review pending court hearing and also a notice advising WPG staffs that there will be no Assembly Meeting until further notice.
However, speaking to the media yesterday, Ramrakha Talasasa said the judicial review application is yet to take effect and that the Minister’s Gazette Order validates the Assembly meeting on Monday.
“Of course there is a judicial review application but we believe that the Gazette Notice still stands unless the High Court Order is made to overrule the Notice.
“There is High Court Stamp on the document we received but there is no date and time for the case to be heard in court, so our interpretation is that, the High Court has received the law suit as seen on the high court stamp but there is no decision made or a court order prohibiting any Assembly meeting till the time decision of the case is announced.
“Furthermore, we see the Speaker’s notice as a letter of instructions based on the fact that the matter to convene Assembly meeting is subjected to litigation and not a legal notice like the one given out by the Minister of Provincial Government.
“By looking at the two documents; one is from the Speaker and the other from the MPGIS.
“We see that the notice given out by the speaker is a legal process that is yet to be processed by the High Court while the other document is a legal notice that has been decided through legal processes.
“Based on this interpretation and understanding we decided that we are bound by the gazette notice.
“While there was uncertainty from the ruling government members and officials, we were present to fulfil the gazette order given by the Minister of MPGIS,” he said.
Talasasa adds the MPAs have also received a notice from MPGIS legal team advising the Assembly Meeting Scheduled for Monday this week as valid.
“I discussed the matter with our legal officer this morning (Monday Morning), the file received are pleading files (the file in this regard is the application submitted by the Speaker for judicial review of the gazette notice) and we a yet to receive a court order to refuse the ministerial order.
“Only court order can supersede the ministerial order or the gazette notice given out by the Minister of MPGIS. In the meantime, the Minister’s order is the instruction that is legally binding according to law. Please comply with the gazette notice and the law of Solomon Islands.”
Talasasa said the email was sent to him by the Permanent Secretary of Western Province and that was another cause for the MPAs to turn up for the Assembly meeting.
He said the business of the Assembly went well in accordance to Standing Order 37 of Western Province Standing Order as most of the administrative staffs especially the speaker, clerk, deputy clerk and assistant administration officers were not present.
Talasasa explained that Standing Order 37 states that; in the event where official stated above are not present, members with absolute majority may appoint someone to preside on the Assembly Business and adjourned the meeting.
“That is exactly we did today (Monday).
“We opened the session with a word of prayer followed by a roll call with 17 members present one member sent his apologies due to medical grounds, the other eight MPAs were unable to give their reason as to why they were not attending the Assembly meeting,” he said.
Talasasa said the Assembly business was administered by the MPAs present during the meeting as Assembly Staffs were not present, only the Permanent Secretary greeted the members and left before the meeting convene.
“We tried out best to contact the provincial staffs but our attempts came back negative. I know the provincial staffs are placed in a situation where they must choose between the provincial government and the ministry of provincial government.
“All the staffs fear insubordination that would lead to negative implication to their employments,” he said.
Talasasa said the meeting was adjourned after the house was briefed with the current situation and awaiting further instructions from MPGIS.
He said a report of the Assembly Meeting will be compiled and submitted to the Minister of MPGIS informing that the Assembly has respond to the Gazette Notice then wait for further instructions from the Minister on what to do next.
Talasasa said those attended the Assembly Meeting considered the meeting as legal based on the interpretation and instructions given by MPGIS.
Attempts to get comments from the government prove futile yesterday. An email was sent but there was no response.
This paper also called government officials for comments but the calls went unanswered. Island Sun will continue to seek the opinion of the government in response to these reports.