Traditional & custom bill in parliament

Solomon Islands National Parliament
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By Gary Hatigeva

THE Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill 2018, has made it through its second reading in parliament and is now set down for debates, but that will happen after it is to put before the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) for its scrutiny.

This is an Act designed under the Ministry of Unity, Peace and Reconciliation, to provide for the recognition of Traditional Governance System, amending the Provincial Government Act 1997, and other related matters that deal with the traditional and custom practices in Solomon Islands.

According to its objectives, the proposed law looks to empower and allow for tribal chiefs and traditional leaders to participate in decision making on social and economic matters in the country, whiles at the same time, provides a frame work for the promotion and preservation of Traditional norms, protocols, values and practices.

The proposed legislation also aims to provide a framework for the institutionalisation, management and regulation of traditional governance systems.

Once enacted, the bill will enable the traditional governance system to become part of the formal governance system, as it will also fulfil intentions to preserve the customary governance system, for the future generation of the country.

As described and explained in the bill, the Roles of traditional governance and leadership maybe identified as an act of responsibility that is expected or vested upon them when they are in leadership levels or upon being appointed to take such responsibility.

It also identifies the Roles and matters of traditional nature or on subject issues that have direct relations to the structure and context of our society, and of which is important to the social and economic aspirations of the country.

Presenting the bill before moving a motion for its second reading, Minister for the Ministry of National Unity, Peace and Reconciliation, Commins Mewa explained that making this bill become realised was an agenda of the former government and he thanked the now Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition for Change Government (SIDDCG) for maintaining the policy which according to the Minister, is what the people needed for the purpose of governance for the traditional system.

Mewaw further added that the subject of social harmony and stability are prominent when it comes to the roles of chiefs or traditional leaders, and therefore pointed out their roles directly complement or to a certain extent, supplement formal state’s institution’s roles particularly, in the areas conflict management and resolutions.

This form of leadership according to Mewa, has the ability to pursue in brining those contentious social matters that are detrimental to the state, or for example, security issues, with regards to law and order within the bounds and this according to the government, needed the formal recognition.

“The theme for this year’s Anniversary Independence Celebration is redirecting our journey at 40 and the introduction of this bill, which when passed, will become the flagship legislation for our traditional governance system, as it also resonates well with this theme.

“Since independence 40 years ago, we have not provided our chiefs and tribal leaders, who reside and interacted with our people on a day to day basis, the platform for them to participate in formal decision making,” the Minister added.

He then pointed out that the governance system has not fully recognised the roles of chiefs and tribal leaders in all communities and empower them to expand and increase their roles, and the minister said this bill also aims to fulfil that.

“This Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill when passed and implemented, will add meaning and value to other acts of parliament, which will initiate reforms or amendments especially laws or natural resources development aspects on forestry, mines, agriculture and fisheries.

“I believe there will be realisation by all Honourable colleagues that this bill will facilitate partnership by our people who are the resource owners on developments, instead of being spectators, and it will also build more direct and tangible benefits to our people.

“If there is a time and opportunity for us to recognise, strengthen and empower our traditional leaders and traditional governance system and structures, it is now,” Minister Mewa said.

He further added that the bill gives leaders the perfect opportunity to give a voice and power to the traditional and tribal leaders.

“We have promised our people especially, our traditional and tribal leaders that we will enact legislations to recognise, strengthen and empower their roles and responsibilities, this is the bill.

“We owe it to our people to pass this bill and this is part of the redirection of the journey as we reach 40 years, and this is also an opportunity to give a voice and empower our traditional leaders and this also adds value to the call for a redirection to our country,” he said.

The bill if passed, will also establish a ministry of its own, to develop and implement policies relevant to improving the Systems provided for in the Act, as well as facilitating the institutional reforms across the Government for the purpose of achieving the objects of the Act.

Called the Ministry of Traditional Governance, it will also consult with the Ministry of Provincial Government to assist provincial governments to make Ordinances codifying customary law, and other functions related to the administration of this Act determined by Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Minister responsible for the tabling of the bill highlighted that before parliament debates and move to pass this very important bill, it is worthwhile to refresh the minds with the roles, conscience, and structures of traditional governance and leadership.

The bill has a major advantage according to experts involved in the its compilation, will also allow for the management of customary properties and this, they said, will give an upper hand to tribal and traditional landowners who are expected to get high benefit in return.

Following its presentation on the floor of parliament after its second reading, debates into the bill was adjourned, with no actual dates on its return to parliament for deliberation, but the government according to insiders, is anticipating its return after the ‘Goods Tax Bill’, the ‘Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2018’, the ‘Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA) Bill 2018’, and the ‘Legal Profession Bill’ are dealt with.