By Gary Hatigeva
FORMER Governor General and Former Member of Parliament for Ulawa/Ugi, Sir Nathanial Waena, has suggested for the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill 2018 to be taken back to the people for proper discussions.
Sir Nathanial made this statement when giving his views on the bill that is currently before the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) for scrutiny.
The Chairman of the Eminent Persons Advisory Committee thought that the legislation is being rushed into reaching this level of the process, but missed a lot of fundamentals that make up the governance aspect of the diverse cultures and customs of all the people of Solomon Islands.
“We are talking about the fundamentality of the existence of our people throughout this nation from Tikopia to Shortlands, from Rennell and Bellona to Sikiana in Lord Howe, and the main islands within the chain,” Sir Nathanial said.
He pointed out that laws are hanging under the constitution and therefore they must be seen to be operative and hold relevance and meaning in the spirit of the constitution.
“We are building a nation of diversity, which is a blessing because it makes Solomon Islands rich in that school,” the former GG stressed.
He added that Solomon Islanders are a people that came out from time immemorial that have their roots deeply tied to their past, “and governance”, speaking as a person from Ulawa, a small island within this nation, “cherishes the past, is enriched by the blessings of today, and holds hope for a future that is being designed constitutionally and legally”.
The statesman further stressed that as someone from a small island community, he outlined that their traditional system can be threatened by virtue of unsound laws, but can be enriched by the blessings of sound legislations.
“Our past is an inheritance of ancestral sacredness rooted in the spirit of our ancestors. We are talking about the blessings left behind by them to be enjoyed by generations both in the past, at present and into the future.
“So that this legislation in draft, must be looked at from the point of view of, does it hold the past, does it endure the present and does it points to a future of hope for prosperity and cohesive coexistence?
“Those are from my humble point of view, the fundamentals in the concepts of governance and customary land.
“Today our people enjoy the freedom of movement of existence on customary land, the rules of governance by our traditional chiefs since time immemorial, I entrench and therefore individuals that are affected by those rules, continue to enjoy harmonious coexistence.
“There is no room for inferior and superior considerations, but there is room certainly for coexistence. Do we throw it out the window or do we hold respect for it?”
Waena further added that Solomon Islands is going through very interesting time of change and the government has paid dearly for the sustenance of the work of a constitutionally review exercise.
He said Solomon Islands is a nation that has come through a volatile period of history, the ethnic tension.
“We have just come out of it, and we are focussing our minds and attention to a future of hope, how do we build that future of hope?”
He highlighted that those are some of the issues that the government needs to look at before moving the initiatives forward and questioned what the kind of Solomon Islander are being talked about.
“I noted from the media that captured a national judge and a respectable female magistrate have highlighted huge matters of concerns regarding the bill, and if these learned minds are saying something questionable and concerning in these laws, something is not right here,” he said.
He reiterated his suggestions, thinking that the government is rushing this bill, “but the question is, rushed to be taken where?”
“We are building a nation and this bill is seemingly being rushed in a time when the country is heading into a major political event.
He further highlighted that the government or the new house, should first look at sorting out matters that deal directly with the resources of the people of this country through relevant laws.
He also reiterated that this bill needs to be taken back to the people for proper discussions, and be taken to the provincial governments to look into, as elected governments of the people in the provincial level.
“I wish to say that this Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation bill 2018 may well be a rush into a future, and therefore those of you in parliament, particularly as current custodians of the constitution, have a duty and an obligation to the people of this country, and those who have decided to become naturalised citizens of this country and those to be in the future,” he added.
This sentiment also comes as no surprise to the office of the Prime Minister, whom insiders said is fully aware of the matters connected to the Bill, but have allowed for the process to continue and looks to withdraw it on the floor of Parliament, based on the calls and recommendations, when it is brought back for deliberations.
“Because of political reasons, it had to be allowed to make the list of bills for the house, with anticipation for those on the Opposition and Independent group to call for its withdrawal, where it should then be moved to be withdrawn,” our insider explained.
There have also been great concerns surrounding the nature of its consultation phase, which many thought was not being done properly with depths, giving coverable reasons for it to be withdrawn.
Insiders agreed that the this piece of legislation is very vital for the country as a mechanism to deal with the ever pressing issue of developing customary lands, but argued that the political point scoring motives behind it has also tainted its genuine intentions, as far as the political circle is concerned.
“If it is to be put in, at least it is a fully cooked bill with the backing of the whole political circle and the people through Civil Society Organisations and other government stakeholders,” insiders added.