TSI says NO Need to Extend Life of Parliament
The intention of the current Executive Government to amend the Constitution to extend the current four years term of parliament to five years was made public recently in the media. The justification shared with the public for this extension was based on the reasons and yet again related to 2023 South Pacific Games. The 2023 National General Election they reasoned, falls on the on the same year as the 2023 South Pacific Games (SPG). It is now very clear that the advisors to the Prime Minister and the current government do not know the importance of National General Election compared with the 2023 South Pacific Games. The citizens of this country should be very, very concerned about this.
Transparency Solomon Islands reminds those surrounding our Prime Minister that the National General Election conducted every four years is the single most important day and event of the country. It is when Solomon Islands citizens go to the polls to elect who they should entrust their power to, to lead the country in the next 4 years. What is then the biggest sporting event ever hosted by the country compared with National General Election. It does not compare at all. It is too low an event to be used to justify the extension of Parliament. This is an excuse and not an issue. Even in those dark days of the ethnic tension we still conduct the general election to give people their Constitutional Right to elect who they believe will lead the country in their interest and the interest of the State in the next four years. Is the Executive Government saying that it will be the SPG 2023 Games Committee that will organize, coordinate, and organize the preparation for the National General Election (NGE) 2023? The country has a very capable newly appointed Chief Electoral Officer with exceptional leadership skills who comes with experience and knowledge of the country for this job than SPG 2023 Games Committee. She is more capable to run the National General Election.
The two separate events (SPG 2023 and NGE 2023) cannot affect each other in terms of preparation and hosting in the same year. The games will take only around two weeks to host and the election will take only one day so there should be nothing very difficult for the government to organize and manage its time and preparation for both events taking place in the same year. It is completely unacceptable and unjustified to use the SPG as an excuse to amend the Supreme Law of this country, the Constitution to extend the life of parliament to five years.
Transparency Solomon Islands reminds the government and the citizens of this country some of the important central functions of Election; (1)Recruiting politicians, (2) Provide Representation, (3) Influencing the formation of governments, (4) Educating of Voters – Provides voters with an abundance of information about parties, candidates, policies and current government or political system (5)Influencing Policy. Election deter governments from pursuing radical and deeply unpopular policies (6) Building of Legitimacy -Elections help foster legitimacy providing a system of rule (7) Opportunity for citizens inflict punishment for non-performance (Representation). Citizens and voters of this country/state have observed a number of issues with regard to current government that can only be rectified partly by holding a National General Election in its due date and not extending it.
Therefore whilst Transparency Solomon Islands would like to see some amendment to the Constitution it is most certainly not for the Extension of the life of the Parliament to 5 years as currently proposed by the Executive Government led by the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA). On day one of the announcement by the media of this intention of the DCGA government, public shared with TSI their objection to this plan for various reasons, ranging from this current Executive Government not being legitimate to this Executive Government politicizing many important positions of power within the public sector to be occupied by it supporters than those they believe have the experience to add value to those positions, to the need to put this to the people to vote on. Transparency Solomon Islands respects these views of the public and urge the Executive Government to look into options that would allow the participation of people of Solomon Islands on this not only important but key matter.
The manner in which the Executive Government runs the day to day affairs of the country assumes that the citizens of this country are unaware of the difference between the Government and the State and making decisions which should be put to the people of Solomon Islands. One such decision is the intention by the current Executive Government to extend the life of the parliament period to five years. Transparency Solomon Islands in this regard reminds the Executive Government of the difference between State and Government. It is the duty of the citizens of the State of Solomon Islands to hold government power in check preventing the government from encroaching upon the absolute and unlimited power of the State. Every four years the people of Solomon Islands conduct the one most single important events of the country, the National General Election to choose who they will entrust their powers to, to govern the country in the next four years. It is therefore only right that amendments to the Constitution must also provide for means through which the State has a say in this rather than amending Constitution to jump straight into extending the life of the Parliament to 5 years. The State is more extensive than government, where the government is only a part of it. State in this context is inclusive of associations that encompasses all institutions of public realms and embraces all members of the community in their capacity as citizens and Government is only a part of the State. Any such amendment would also require the need for other relevant legislations to be looked into as well. State is a continuing permanent entity, whilst Government on the other hand come and go and systems of government can be reformed and remodeled. For such important issues as this Transparency Solomon Islands call on the government to amend the constitution to provide a mechanism for gauging peoples view on such important policies.
Transparency Solomon Islands therefore calls on the government to amend the Constitution and other relevant legislations to provide for Referendum Plebiscite with regard to this proposed intention. TSI supports the public who object very strongly to amending Constitution to extend the life of parliament to five years. This is not an issue to be decided by the politicians alone. The government is encroaching into the unlimited authority of the State for the common good and interest. TSI does so on the basis that the State represents the permanent interest of the society, the common good and its general will. Government on the other hand represent the one-sided commiserations of those who happen to be in power at the particular time. Transparency Solomon Islands therefore reminds the government that this is an area and decision that belongs to the absolute and unlimited authority of the State and the question must be put to the citizens and all parts that make up the State and not just the government or the temporary politicians. The issue of Political Obligation – the duty of the citizens towards the State, the basis of State’s right to rule must be respected.
Having suggested that the Constitution be amended to provide for Referendum, Transparency Solomon Islands hereby explains that a Referendum for and against is a vote in which electorate express a view on a particular issue of Public Policy. It is a device of direct democracy not intended for use to replace a representative. Referendum helps the government to measure what the population or people they represent think about a particular issue. It may be advisory or binding or may raise issues for discussion or used to decide policy propositions or plebiscites [survey].
Transparency Solomon islands re-iterates its strong objection to any move by the current Executive Government to amend the Constitution to extend the life of Parliament but strongly supports the amendment of the Constitution to provide the avenue for peoples voices to be heard in important matters such as the extension of the life of the Parliament to five  years and for any future such policies encroaching into the unlimited power and authority of the State.
With the grasshopping that is currently happening one of the issues to be addressed by an election, change of electoral system and amendment of the Political Parties Integrity Act, Transparency Solomon Islands understands that the current DCGA government has the number to pass any bill and made amendment to any law. Given its numerical strength now standing at 38 they can easily pass their proposed extension of parliament term through amendment of the constitution. The executive government can vote for it on the floor of parliament since they have more than two third of parliamentary seats. But is this the proper use of people’s entrusted power or the abuse of it for their personal gain and agenda. As one ordinary citizen shared in our office he would not be wrong when he said ‘ the excuse for the proposed extension is unnecessary, unjustified another cover up using SPG 2023 by those MPs supporting the move to keep them remain in power for long’.
Furthermore, the timeline of the SPG and the election are administrative issues than can be addressed with no sweat at all. This country in its darkest days protested against extension of parliament then and held a successful election in the midst of ethnic tension. Having Mr. Allan Kemakeza as the Prime Minister then we had for the first time a government that run its full term. The country has a figure that did not polarize but facilitate the working together of all our parliamentarians. Given this pandemic and what we are going through new leadership, new political recruitment is needed, election becomes a must. Political appointees occupying line positions should let the seasoned public servants and responsible government ministries to their job or guide them. There are many people who would give anything to help but so far there seem to be the same people in committees, boards etc. It is not a surprise that the quality of advice has dropped well below expectation something that cannot be blamed on our politicians alone.
More importantly citizens object and are unhappy with the proposed move to extend the life of parliament reason being the ongoing mismanagement and uneven distribution of resources through the hands of some Members of Parliament (MPs), political appointees, public officers etc. In their analysis the longer the term of MP who favors only his cronies in parliament the longer the suffering of his constituents. The majority of voters did not vote for the winning MP and asking for change to electoral system. The same people repeatedly receive projects from MPs and uneven distribution of projects or funds given through MPs to assist constituents always benefit the voters of the MPs only. The majority of the constituents were left out for the whole of the four years including many communities that desperately need the assistance for community projects.
Transparency Solomon Islands therefore calls on the government to amend the Constitution and other relevant legislations to provide for referendum and put the vote to the people on this proposed policy. A number of issues and policies are issues that should be put to the people but were not because our Constitution does not provide for a referendum. TSI believed that there are issues that must involve the participation of our people and that can only happen through a referendum, especially those that were not in the campaign platform of political parties at the time of election. Transparency Solomon Islands urge the Executive government to listen and let the people participate in any decision on controversial issues such as the proposed extension of the life of parliament, thus a referendum is a must.