Court dismisses case challenging validity of extension of current parliament


High Court has struck out the case challenging the extension of the life of the current parliament.

Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer ruled in favour of the Speaker of Parliament, Governor General and Prime Minister, upholding their application to strike out the case questioning the process of the constitutional amendment to the extension of parliament.

This case was raised by the Leader of the Parliamentary Independent Group, Dean Kuku, on whether two separate readings were required to alter a provision of the constitution under Section 61(3) of the constitution and if these readings can take place at the Third Reading.

Additionally, he questioned whether the final voting required for the valid and lawful passage of the Constitution (Amendment Bill 2022) can only occur at the Third Reading.

Mr Kuku argued that the passage of the Constitutional Amendment Act in September last year violated Section 61(3) of the constitution, rendering it unconstitutional, invalid, and of no effect.

Kuku argued that parliament should have been dissolved on May 15, 2023, as per Section 73(3) of the constitution, resulting in all seats in the National Parliament becoming vacant.

Kuku contended that all proceedings by Parliament after May 15, 2023, including the passage of any bills and motions, are null and void.

Lawyers for the three defendants filed an application to the court to strike out the case, filed by Lawyer Billy Titiulu on behalf of his client, Kuku.

The defendants’ application relied primarily on the provisions of Rule 9.75 of the Solomon Islands (Civil Procedure) Rules 2007 (“the Rules”) which provides for a strike out on the following grounds: (a) That the proceedings are frivolous or vexatious; or (b) That no reasonable cause of action is disclosed; or (c) That the proceedings are an abuse of the process of the court.

Sir Albert in his judgment said that Kuku and Titiulu had failed to demonstrate any reasonable cause of action in their submissions, their case lacked merit and was an abuse of court process.

He said Kuku should have objected to the process, if he was serious about the failure to comply with legislative and parliamentary process, on the floor of parliament.

“Instead of raising an objection there and then and giving the opportunity to the appropriate forum being Parliament presided over by the Speaker to resolve that, he participated and then has now come to this court for redress.

“While the question of interpretation lies with this court, questions of process and procedure lie within Parliament to amend if it deems appropriate.

“The question of the number of readings and votes to be taken fall squarely with the rule making power of Parliament to have the relevant Standing Orders put in place to give effect to the constitutional requirements imposed upon it and not in this court.

“And so, even if there is to be any relief given the most this court can do would be to refer the matter back to Parliament to resolve the issue.

“For those reasons as well, I am not satisfied a sufficient case has been made out that would require the intervention of this court,” Sir Albert said.

Sir Albert also raised the issue of delay that Kuku filed his claim 293 days later about 10 months after the amendment was made.

Kuku alleges his rights and interest had been affected when Parliament should have been dissolved by on or about May 15, 2023, and elections to be held within four months thereafter, which would have fallen on or about September 15, 2023.

The timeframe is simply an impossibility now and so raises the practical question as to what if any purpose is to be achieved by this claim, Sir Albert said.

Meanwhile outside the court Kuku’s lawyer Tititulu said that any appeal to the court’s decision will be decided later.

He said he will consult with his client before making any appeal on the decision.

On September 9, 2022, parliament passed the controversial constitutional amendment which deferred the dissolution of the current house by seven months.

As a result, instead of dissolution on May 15, 2023, the current parliament will dissolve on December 31, 2023.

National general elections are expected to be carried out in April, 2024.

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