Solomon Islands anti-corruption bill – where now?

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DEAR EDITOR, there was talk last September (2016) by the Solomon Islands Government, at that time led by the Rt Hon Manasseh Sogavare, to bring a “strengthened” Anti-Corruption Bill before Parliament in the next sitting of the House.

I might have missed something by being far from the local scene but I cannot really recall having heard recently of the much awaited legislation to combat the level of corruption that is perceived by many to be still occurring in the Solomon Islands.

I do remember the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission (LRC) having claimed that the Anti-Corruption Bill would be a “toothless tiger’ unless some provision was provided in the Bill for the pursuit and prosecution of anyone who, in terms of their means of income, owned things that were beyond their level of income.

According to the LRC unjust enrichment, or ‘illicit wealth.’ by some in the Solomon Islands was evident and the LRC had recommended provisions in the Anti-Corruption Bill to cover unjust enrichment, based on the fact that there had been a study carried out by the United Nations and the World Bank in 2012 in which it was claimed 44 countries had adopted ‘illicit wealth’ provisions in local legislation to enhance their own legal frameworks in the fight against corruption.

The LRC considered ‘illicit wealth’ provisions to be effective tools in dealing with corruption in the Solomon Islands and recommended that the Ant-Corruption Bill then, under consideration, last year contains such provisions.

There followed a response from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) saying that the provisions recommended by the LRC would take away the principle of the presumption of innocence.

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The argument went that a legal principle held that a person accused of a crime is always presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty by a court of law and by adopting the recommendations of the LRC in the then Anti-Corruption Bill would it erode the principle of innocence.

There remained the view that, on balance, and in the light of the level of corruption in the Solomon Islands public sector, unjust enrichment provisions were justifiable and did not pose a threat to the presumption of innocence.

The concept of unjust enrichment can be traced to Roman law and the maxim that “no one should be benefited at another’s expense “nemo locupletari potest aliena iactura or nemo locupletari debet cum aliena iactura”.

So I respectfully end this brief article by posing the question I began with – “The Solomon Islands Anti-Corruption Bill, where is it now?”

Yours sincerely

FRANK SHORT

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