TSI Supports Consultations on Traditional Governance Bill with Caution

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Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) commend the national government for conducting more consultations with citizens on the Traditional Governance Bill but cautions that issues raised at the Bills and Legislation Committee hearing must also be shared with the people. This will allow them to come up with their options on the way forward.

TSI like many other Solomon Islander is very concerned with the draft bill that is proposing to legislate our traditional governance systems and customs.  TSI along with others called for nationwide consultation in its submission before the Bills and Legislation Committee and is please to note consultation to the provinces is being conducted as reported in the media.

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The Executive Government through the Ministry of Traditional Governance, Peace and Ecclesiastical Affairs (MTGPEA) with the help of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conduct awareness on the bill in some provinces now is highly commended.

This is to allow citizens to have more input in the bill that will impact their way of life in dealing with land ownership, properties and cultural means of governance.

There were four (4) broad areas of the bill TSI pointed out the negative repercussion it will have on our people and their cultural way of doing things if the bill was allowed to go for its second reading and passed in parliament.

The four areas TSI made submission were the (i) traditional governance and customs, (ii) customary rights over properties (iii) the codification of customs and practices and (iv) recognition of customary laws.

TSI cautioned the government of the likely outright replacement of our traditional governance systems via an introduced bill based on foreign concepts, which will deny the customary rights of the indigenous people over land and properties.

Important to note is the fact that different islands and regions across the country have their unique cultural systems of governance. The proposed draft bill will do away with these systems of governance

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Hence, TSI urged the government to allow more consultations for citizens to look into the proposed bill on four areas highlighted above, given the complexity of many different cultural norms, values and practices across the country.

In that case, one traditional system of governance of a particular island cannot suit other ethnic group, let alone imposing a foreign systems through a series of committees as suggested in the bill since codification of customs and practices stated in the bill need to take into account all unique system of governance of different cultural groups in Solomon Islands.

So, one particular cultural practice cannot be legislated to supersede other existing cultural means of governances of other ethnic group in Solomon Islands.

TSI warned that the proposed new bill will not work as intended but it can be used by politicians and investors to do worse damage in customary land, if proper consultations with citizens are not taken on board.

TSI applaud therefore the Executive Government for allowing more time to consult with citizens on the bill.  Even so TSI reiterates that more in-depth research and study including awareness is needed. In this instance Transparency Solomon Islands urges UNDP who is supporting this work to furnish the consultation team and itself with the report of the Bills and Legislation Committee Report to inform the consultation as well as make people aware of the issues raised by those who went before the Bills and Legislative Committee and engage people on these.  Giving power under this bill to a very corrupt Chiefs Hearing Panel as seen today needs addressing in this bill.

TSI remind Executive Government, UNDP and those doing the consultation to consult existing documents on this as this was a bill that came under a lot of criticism with no answer coming from the then Executive Government.  Those submissions were well researched and given by both ordinary and learned traditional governance experts and lawyers, magistrate who will be called on in times of dispute.  TSI urges the government to continue embrace the citizens when proposing any new laws that will affect the lives of the people, by taking its time to hold nation-wide consultations instead of selective consultation as was previously done.  The bill in its present draft form will deny the rights of the indigenous people of Solomon Islands and it needs improving to protect their rights than take it away.

ENDS!

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