By Gary Hatigeva
MEMBER of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga and Chair of the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC), Matthew Wale has suggested for a longer Objectiona period and called for the government to work through the Electoral Commission on it.
This comes following a recorded high in the number of transfers from different constituencies to others, the Chair of the BLC Chair thought that the period allocated for the objection period is not long enough for the legal process to take its full course on those who are involved in what was widely described as, illegal and uncalled for.
The Aoke/Langalanga MP made this comment when contributing to the Motion of Special Adjournment moved by the Acting Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, following parliament’s resumption on Monday.
He said the matter on cross border that continued to see negative reports coming out from, is clearly illegal but is worst than ever before.
He added that the matter of people transferring between constituencies is undermining the character of the country’s representative democracy and distorts the will of the electorates.
The Aoke/Langalanga MP is concerned that the illegal practice is driven by what he described as, selfish motives on the part of some people that is a blatant disregard for the spirit of the constitution and the electoral act, while at the same time, a blatant disrespect to the electorates.
“In some instance, anecdotal information suggests that it is perused by candidates who fear their electorates, so want to dilute the electorates’ votes by others coming in from elsewhere, where are not familiar with issues in that particular constituency,” Wale stressed.
He further stressed that it is so unfortunate, these activities happen straight after parliament passed the Electoral Act 2018 and this according to Wale shows the inadequacies in the provisions of the new law.
“In that some candidates who are pushing such, there should be punitive measures against any candidates where from behind, are directing others to engage in cross borders to dilute their own constituency electorates,” he said.
Wale then reminded and warned that the government must take the call into serious consideration and take action, because highlighted issue will result in diversion of constituency resources, which was what many electors expressed as one of their main concern.
He further warned that the issues highlighted may also result in social conflict, “and it cannot be good for our country, as it cannot be good for our people”.
He said the only hope to clean up that electoral role is the ‘objection process’, but pointed out that this process is too short as we are now talking about transfers and cross borders of thousands of voters from all around the country.
So I ask that the government liaises with the commission to make sure that the objections process is given more time so that the role is cleaned up.
The integrity of the role is core to the legitimacy of the will of constituencies and we have seen in this matter, that the out of constituency registration may have contributed to this and we therefore need a confirmation procedure.
With so much at stake plus the many confusion over the muddle up of the old act against the new electoral act, Lawyers spoken to suggested for the government to also come up with a bill to make clear the application of provisions in the new law to the activities at question, as most of the matters related to the cross border and transfer activities, were done prior to the act’s gazette.
In his response to this, Acting Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare assured that the government following the consistent reports on the highlighted issue, has held meetings with the responsible authorities including the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission and is working to look into the relevant provisions.
Sogavare revealed that so far, the number of newly registered has so far reached up to 15,000 which he thought is reasonable, but agreed that the number of transfers or cross border registration is concerning as it now hits over 4,000, which according to observers, the number is still expected to increase in the remaining days of registration.
He however stressed that those involved in getting people to register in different constituencies will have to be prepared to meet the many complications that will come with such illegal practices and are further warned to rethink their position in these transfer and cross border activities, so to avoid any embarrassments and legal consequences.