Governor-General’s power to remove Prime Minister clarified
There has been contentions and misconceptions from some members of the public recently in the social media calling on the Governor-General to exercise his powers under the Constitution to call on the Prime Minister to resign or to step down due to the violent protests, rioting, looting, and destruction of private and public properties in Honiara.
There has also been calls for the Governor-General to intervene and call a meeting of Parliament to remove the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, under the Constitution of Solomon Islands, the Governor-General does not have the power and mandate to call on the Prime Minister to resign, or to call a meeting of Parliament to remove the Prime Minister.
Section 34 of the Constitution stipulates the tenure of office of Ministers.
They are as follows:-
(i) If a resolution of no confidence in the Prime Minister is passed by Parliament by an absolute majority of the votes of members the Governor-General shall remove the Prime Minister from office;
(ii) When, after a general election, the members of Parliament meet to elect a Prime Minister in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 2 to this Constitution;
(iii) If he ceases to be a Member of Parliament for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament;
(iv) If he is elected as a Speaker or Deputy Speaker; or
(v) If he resigns such office by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor-General; or
(vi) If the person holding the office of Prime Minister dies.
Given the current situation we are now facing, section 34 of the Constitution is distinctively clear on one thing. If the Prime Minister does not resign voluntarily, he can only be removed by the Governor-General following a successful motion of no confidence.
The Governor-General, therefore, does not instigate the removal of the Prime Minister. The members of Parliament who signed the motion do, by notifying the Speaker of their intention.
It is therefore, incumbent on the Speaker to call a meeting of Parliament, if Parliament is not already meeting/sitting, to debate the motion on the floor of Parliament to test the majority rule. By implication, section 34 expects the motion to reach the floor of Parliament and looks to the Speaker to put the motion on the Order Paper by calling a meeting of Parliament.
If the motion is passed, the Governor-General then acts by removing the Prime Minister from office in accordance with the motion.
Therefore, it will be unconstitutional for the Governor-General to call a meeting of Parliament to remove the Prime Minister, or ask the Prime Minister for his resignation.