Constituency leaders oppose extension of parliament life
By IRWIN ANGIKI
Leaders of Small Malaita have collectively voiced opposition to government’s proposal to extend the life of parliament.
In a meeting with their member of parliament, Rick Hou at Riverside village recently, about 140 chiefs and community elders (men and women) from the three wards of Small Malaita made their decision known.
MP Hou is a member of the Opposition group in parliament.
Small Malaita’s announcement is the latest inclusion to a long list of communities, organisations, churches and prominent individuals disagreeing with government’s proposal.
Early this week, the Tadai and Sahalu houses of chiefs in North West Guadalcanal publicly said ‘No’ to the proposal.
Two weeks ago, the Birau house of chiefs in East Guadalcanal voiced their opposition to the proposal.
The association of churches (SICA) which represents the main Christian denominations in the country, came out early this month blasting the infamous proposal.
The national council of women (SINCW), Transparency Solomon Islands, the parliamentary opposition and independent group, the umbrella body of civil societies – the Development Services Exchange (DSE), and other prominent bodies and individual citizens have come out since April last year disagreeing with this DCGA proposal.
Meanwhile, during the Riverside meeting the leaders of Small Malaita also made resolutions on other national issues; covid-19 regulations and legislation of traditional governance.
1. Deferment of National General Election
In a statement issued after the meeting, the chiefs resolved that they oppose any move to extend the life of Parliament, either temporarily or to a five-year term.
“The SI national constitution is the supreme law and no other laws, including the PG Charter, should be used to tamper with it.”
The statement said that the current Parliament, nor DCGA, has any mandate by the people of SI to change the national constitution in any way.
“The people’s fundamental right is to cast their ballot every four years. The Pacific Games is nothing compared to our rights under the national constitution.”
The chiefs said that Government’s proposal for MPs to conduct consultation with their people on the issue is ill-conceived and is senseless.
“How can MPs carry out any objective consultation?
“MPs either have a bias, if not a conflict of interest, in this matter.”
The statement added that the PM’s reasons for the proposal to extend the life of Parliament – including allowing time for electoral reforms to be addressed and that the registration of voters has to be updated – are all lame excuses.
“It is very disappointing that the Government is not making necessary preparations towards the 2023 national general elections. This is a total disregard of duty to the people of this country as required under the Electoral Act 2018.
“Given the situation, the right thing would be to call for an early dissolution of parliament.
“We call on the Members of Parliament for an early dissolution of Parliament. If done, this would be a great achievement by the DCGA government – that the national general election would be held as well as hold the Pacific Games in 2023. With that option, the national constitution would be preserved, and Solomon Islands would not breach the Pacific Games Charter.”
The community leaders discussed the present situation in the country under the State of Public Emergency (SoPE) Act. They noted that the SOPE has been extended several times already.
The statement said that the chiefs are very concerned about the negative impact on the economy from application of COVID protocols under the current SOPE regulations.
“Business and commercial activities in the country have been badly affected, and especially household incomes in the rural areas has declined significantly. Consequently our people are suffering,” they said.
The statement said that this situation has also caused schools to remain closed. “This is affecting the education of our children’s education and future.”
The chiefs said that the recent advice from the Government that schools will open is practically impossible in the rural areas.
“We welcome the Ministry of Education advice for schools to open for classes, but the pre-requisites make this idea impossible, as schools will need substantial funding and major capital works preparations in order to comply with these requirements.”
The chiefs call on the Government not to renew the current state of public emergency when it expires. Instead, the Government should adopt policy actions that recognise the fact that COVID is here to stay so Solomon Islands will have to live with COVID.
“The current COVID protocols and requirements are suppressing business and income, and at the same time these are an enormous cost to families, the government and SI economy as a whole.”
In that line the chiefs call on the government to remove all travel restrictions – especially domestic travel.
Meanwhile the chiefs urge the government to rigorously pursue a nationwide roll-out of vaccination and other personal hygiene practices.
3. Traditional Governance Bill
The statement said that the chiefs are pleased to note the government has finally decided to taking the proposed legislation on Traditional Governance to Parliament.
The chiefs said it is a long-awaited policy to ensure the role of traditional and other community leaders in conflict resolutions and other matters of general order in Solomon Islands.
They said this legislation – when passed – would acknowledge the important traditional chiefs play and give the much needed impetus into the formal legal system.
“We look forward to fully participating in the consultations promised by the government to take place in the Southern Region of Malaita Province.”