Gov’t defends plan to extend life of Parliament
The Government has defended its plan to extend the life of this Parliament from four to five years.
In a Government press conference today, Special Secretary to Prime Minister Albert Kabui says this is constitutional as provided for in the Constitution.
“Section 59 of the constitution provides for Parliament with the mandate to make laws, Section 61 provides for altering the constitution, and since Independence we have more than 10 constitutional changes, so yes, the Constitution can be amended by Parliament and the decision to extend life of Parliament is constitutional,” Mr Kabui says.
He says, the plan was made as manpower, resources and logistics would be stretched if two major events, the National General Election and the Pacific Games 2023 are to be held in the same year, 2023.
“The government feels that in order for us to accommodate the Pacific Games, we have to move the election. The election itself does not start when nominations are open, it starts with the registration of voters, and the current voter registration list needs to be updated by the Electoral Commission,” Kabui says.
He says voter registration of voters itself is a big exercise that needs time.
“The thinking here is for the Parliament to extend the life of Parliament by one year – that can be either by a Sunset Clause in the Constitution or permanent,” the Prime Minister’s Special Secretary says.
Kabui adds that the cabinet has the legal mandate to make policies, and parliament has the legal mandate to make laws which were given to them on election day.
“This means whenever the cabinet wants to come up with a policy it thinks fit, it has the mandate of the people – by way of being elected. As such, the cabinet does not need to consult the people when it wants to change policies,” he explains.
Kabui said they have already consulted with the provincial premiers, the Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association and the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce to get their views.
He says this will be taken to the floor of Parliament, and since it’s a constitutional amendment, they need two-third majority to pass it.
Attorney General John Muria Jnr says there is no constitutional provision stating that the government must carry out a [nation-wide] consultation.
“We do that because it is a good practice but in terms of legal requirements that there must be consultation before passing any law, there is none. This is the Westminster System that we adopt,” he explains.
The Opposition Group in Parliament last week strongly objected the government’s plan to extend the life of Parliament from four to five years.
Opposition leader Matthew Wale said extending the life of parliament is unconstitutional and self-serving because there is no consultation with people – the electorate.
“We adopt constitutional parliamentary democracy, our system of government is representative democracy, and the basis of representative democracy is government by consent – people consent leaders by voting them into parliament to represent them.
“So, we view this as a serious breach of trust with people, but it does not surprise us because this is the government that loses the trust of people in this country,” Wale said.
Opposition Member of Parliament Peter Kenilore Jnr said people’s views must be honoured and treated with respect.
He said sentiments always expressed by the government in Parliament and media that ‘the government does not want to consult with tom dick and harry’s, labelling them as wrong thinking Solomon Islanders’ are very insensitive.
He said these are dangerous implications to our people.
“As leader’s we should not see our people as tom, dick or harry. They are our people, our voters and they are Solomon Islanders. These people also have rights and they are the ones that gave us the mandate in Parliament,” he said.
Kenilorea said when it comes to election cycles all Solomon Islanders have equal views.
“Some of our people might not have fancy titles or a colourful educational background but when it comes to election cycles, their views matter,” he said.
Kenilorea also questioned the consultation report on the extension of parliament promised by the Prime Minister in Parliament.
By Jared Koli