Private Sector enlightened on new Electoral Act

Warned to respect legal rights of employees to vote & reminded of the public holiday status of Election Day

By Gary Hatigeva

MEMBERS of the Private Sector under the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SICCI) were yesterday, engaged in a session with the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) for talks on the Electoral Act 2018.

Organised by the Chamber of Commerce, the session was intended to update its members on the activities involved in the election process, and the responsibility of the Commission, public and the private sector particularly, the business community.

The SIEC team informed the business community about the Electoral Commission Act and its implications as well as important dates for the National General Election next year.

In the session Philotea Paul, the Commission’s Head of Media and Communications Awareness, spoke on the general aspects of the election process, and shared on the status of the activities that are currently underway, and others that are yet to come, including the recently completed registration programme.

Philotea Paul of SIEC speaking to members of SICCI.

The Commission’s Chief Electoral Officer, Mose Saitala on the other hand, spoke on the application and legal aspect of the new act, which he highlighted matters on the involvement of business houses in the process.

He also presented on the changes that were made under the new act from the old one, and the new provisions that have been included, at the same time enlightened the gathering on the particular sections within the act that were enacted for next year’s election.

In his presentation, Saitala revealed and pointed out that the Electoral, which was recently passed by parliament, has made it illegal for businesses particularly, foreign owned or those that have foreign shareholders, to be involved and support any part of individual candidates in their campaign activities.

Under the heading Campaign expenses & donations, the Act warns and made it clear that any candidate who accepts campaign donation from a non-citizen person or a company who has a non-citizen shareholder commit an offence: Penalty – $50,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both.

The gathering was also enlightened on provisions within the Electoral Act, which made it compulsory for business houses to allow for their employees to exercise their constitutional rights to cast a vote during Election Day.

They were however warned that the Act has also made the Election Day a public holiday, which according to the SIEC CEO, businesses and companies within the private sector are ought to recognise the application of the Labour Laws in terms of employee salaries and wages.

The Act has made it lawful that it is the duty of employers to release voters, and warned that any employer, who does not release a voter to cast his or her vote, commits an offence, and can be penalised with a $10,000 fine.

SIEC CEO making his presentation on the new Act.

However, the part in which the act stipulates on the status of voting for all eligible voters did not gone down well with a lot of those from the private sector who expressed concerns over the potential negative impact this decision will have, on their businesses and operations.

The Act has made it legal for all eligible voters to cast their votes, making it compulsory for both the public and private sectors to allow for their employees to exercise this constitutional right.

It was shared that the amount of time required in the back and forth movements by employees for the election, will also affect business operations, stressing that people will need more than a day off to take part in the election activity, where in some cases, people are expected to travel longer distances, and according to those concerned, it will require at least a week to leave for elections.

While he conquered with the concerns, the CEO stressed that with the Act now in place, the onus will go back to the employers and their employees to make arrangements in terms of salary/wage payments, and the issue surrounding days off.

As it is now a legal mandate allowed for by the new electoral act, the SIEC CEO therefore advised all to start their preparations and planning, ahead of the next year’s election.

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