Renbel gov’t in limbo

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RENNELL and Bellona Provincial Speaker, Lester Hackle Saomasi has defended his decision to allow the debate of the motion of no confidence against Premier Willie Tuhagenga on 20 December 2021.

Japhet Tuhanuku was elected as a new Premier after Tuhagenga and his five member Executives boycotted the meeting.

There are total of 10 members in the Renbel, where six are in the Executive and four non-executive members.

Tuhagenga claimed the meeting was illegal because the Provincial Speaker breached standing order 62 when he issued a notice for the meeting.

Under Standing Order 62, the Speaker may adjourn commencement day of date of the meeting after consultation with the premier where unforeseen circumstances make it impracticable or impossible to proceed as scheduled.

However, Speaker Saomasi, a former national politician and provincial member, said the meeting was legal.

Soamasi was a former Member of Parliament for West Honiara (1997-2001), Renbel (2002-2006) and provincial member for a ward in Marovo, Western Province (2009-2018).

Tuhagenga argued any call for assembly meeting is vested on the power of the premier and not the speaker.

“In fact, I’ve advised the speaker to schedule the assembly meeting on 6 December, however due to logistic and funding issues, the proposed meeting date was deferred to January 2022,” Tuhagenga said.

“But when I announced the date on 6 December, the non-executive requested for a special assembly meeting on 20 December with the main business being a motion of no-confidence in the premier,” he added.

According to the notice issued on 10 December the Speaker calls to convene the meeting on 20 December under Standing Order 58.

Speaker Saomasi said the non-executive members signed a letter and requested a special meeting to be held on 20th December.

He said it was a lawful request according to Section 58 of the Standing Order.

Section 58 states that the Speaker shall also call a meeting if a absolute majority of members present a letter to the Speaker, signed by each member, calling for a meeting on the date stated in the letter.

The letter shall state the reasons for calling the meeting and the business to be discussed at the meeting.

Speaker Saomasi said former Premier Tuhagenga advised him to defer the meeting to 20 January 2022 based on Section 62 of the Standing Order but he refused to follow him.

“Under the meeting, no one has the power to direct me.

“The Speaker proceed it to the best of his judgement,” he said.

“I cannot negotiate with the Premier because the motion was against him,” he said.

Tuhagega said the same notice was issued to him on 14 December, which means there is no clear seven days from the date of service of the notice.

He questioned the validity of issuing and approving the date.

“This is an assembly meeting and I should be consulted prior within clear seven days.

“It ought to be made clear that I have no intention to defer the assembly meeting as there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled before the meeting can proceed.”

Speaker Saomasi said the reasons given by the former Premier Tuhagenga to defer the meeting based on finance did not qualify under Section 62.

He said they knew the meeting to be held six months ago.

Speaker Saomasi said his stand against former Premier Tuhangenga was to stop the attitude spoiling the politics of Renbel.

He said in history, Renbel has been suspended twice because of such attitudes where leaders decided to hold on to power and dragged the issue without finding a solution.

Speaker Saomasi said other big provinces have gone through motion of confidence but they dealt with on the floor of chambers and elected their new Premiers without any hassles.

Tuhagenga said he’s taking the matter to court so that it can be sorted out.

He said there will be negative implications on the province if this issue is not sorted.

Tuhagenga said this so-called change of leadership through illegal means will set a bad precedence for the province and will affect its development and progress.

Speaker Saomasi said only the court is the right avenue to sort out the political impasse facing the province.