BREAKING NEWS

Constitution Amendment Bill should ready for Parliament by September

The Constitution Amendment Bill 2022 is expected to be ready for parliament by September 2022.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced this in parliament on Wednesday (10 August 2022).

Mr Sogavare said the bill requires four weeks’ notice before it will be ready before parliament.

“The Constitution Amendment Bill 2022 because it requires four weeks’ notice before it should mature by the 5th or 6th September. This is when parliament can look into the bill,” Mr Sogavare said.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare

Procedures provides that where a proposed new legislation which breaks new ground or represents a major change in policy direction, it is vital for agencies to consult not only those who have expertise in the subject matter, but also, those who are likely to be affected.

A balance must be struck between an adequate consultation process and adherence to the strict ‘need-to-know’ principle. 

Individuals, organisations and groups are to be included to ensure no-one is omitted and that the amount of consultation fits the scale and importance of the legislation being proposed.

This includes the responsibility of the Constitutional Review Committee to oversee the administration of the Constitution under the Standing Orders.

National Parliament of Solomon Islands

As part of this process, Mr Sogavare told parliament that all Members of Parliament have received packages that assisted them to travel to their constituencies to conduct consultations, explain and seek their people’s views on the bill.

Speaking at a media conference on Wednesday (10 August 2022) Special Secretary to the Prime Minister Albert Kabu said Members of Parliament will present their reports of their constituency consultations on the bill when it is up for debate in parliament.

“We will let the process by the Bills and Legislation Committee or the Constitutional Review Committee to go on because they will collect views and then ask for written submissions. When the bill is in debate, then that is the right time for members to present their reports taken during their consultations with constituents,’’ Mr Kabui explained.

Special Secretary to Prime Minister Albert Kabui

Chair of the Bills and Legislation Committee John Maneniaru confirmed that his committee had seen the bill.

He said the committee will request assistance from the government through the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to begin its provincial inquiries into the bill.

Meanwhile, speaking at a media conference yesterday (11 August 2022) Leader of Opposition Mathew Wale said the bill is of great significance to the country and the Constitution.

He said it is important that people’s views are heard during the inquiry process.

However, the Opposition maintains its stand not to support the bill.

“As you all know, we do not have the numbers, but if we have the numbers, we would look to defeat the bill because our position is clear that there is no need to tamper with the Constitution,’’ Mr Wale said.

He said the group among other options is looking towards debating the bill in parliament and raising issues which are attached to it.

Opposition Leader Mathew Wale

The Constitution Amendment Bill 2022 intends to seek parliament’s approval to defer the National General Election of the 12th Parliament until after the 2023 Pacific Games.

This is to alter the Constitution under section 61(5)(b) of the Constitution to suspend the operation of section 73(3) of the Constitution and dissolve the eleventh Parliament on 31 December 2023.

Clause 7 of the bill provides that the Act will expire on 1 January 2024.

A bill for the amendment of the Constitution requires a special majority of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament after it was supported on two separate readings. 

Parliament has a total of fifty members and the application of the two-thirds majority requires the support of not less than thirty-three members before the proposed extension can be passed. 

By Fredrick Kusu

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