The MP for East Are’are Peter Kenilorea has described as shameful and a direct threat to democracy values and principles a proposal by the government to extend life of Parliament from four to five years as information.
Kenilorea’s strongly worded statement on FB comes after it was leaked to the social media that the Cabinet has already agreed to extend from four to five years.
In his statement Kenilorea said: “At the very least it is shameful to extend our own tenure as MPs. More seriously though, such a decision or action as well as the process in reaching this decision is, in my view, a direct threat to the democratic values and principles upon which our nation, Solomon Islands, is founded.”
Kenilorea recalled that in parliament yesterday, during the 2021 budget deliberations, he questioned the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare on a comment he made in answering a question by the Leader of Opposition (LO) on the work of the Constitutional Reform Unit and the proposed federal system of government to replace Solomon Islands’ unitary system.
“In answering the LO’s question, I thought I heard the PM say that the work on the federal system is a reason to extend the life of parliament. So I asked him to clarify what he said regarding the extension of the life of parliament. His answer was essentially that papers are being prepared by officials on the matter of extension of the life of parliament and that wider consultations will need to be made before a decision can be made. I am very much aware of the ‘leave no stones unturned’ argument. It can be very convincingly made.
“Then I saw the below photo of what looks like a cabinet paper and decision (which are supposedly secret documents) on FB. These supposed cabinet papers show that a decision has already been made. That cabinet had already agreed for parliament to be extended from 4 to 5 years. The government has the required numbers to push a constitutional amendment providing for this,” he said.
Kenilorea continues: “Interestingly, I note from the photo that one of the rationales, among others, to extend parliament’s life is precisely because of the unfinished work on the federal system. If it’s a policy decision then I would advocate for the people to decide, either through a referendum and/or through having the proponents of this extension run on this issue as an election platform in 2023 national elections. If through consultations the extension of the life of parliament is accepted by the people, then, in my view, it should be implemented during the 12th Parliament. Not during this current 11th parliament.”
The Government Communication last night issued a statement on the issue it aid Prime Minister Sogavare clarified in parliament that the proposed policy to extend the life of the current house would go through proper processes and it will not be rushed.
PM Sogavare said it would be narrow to base the reason for the extension of the parliament on the reforms pursued by government adding that given the right time he will outline the basis for that policy stance.
Sogavare confirmed that at this stage the Attorney General (Ag), Special Secretary to Prime Minister (SSPM) and other officials are firming up the consultation process for the proposed policy.
“On prima facie, we will be doing injustice to ourselves and the nation if we go to the polls on 2023, however, I will not delve into this until proper consultations will be made to firm up this proposed policy,” he said.
The Government is fully aware that since the extension of the life of parliament will touch on the national constitution, such proposed policy will need to be grounded with solid and valid basis in order to garner two third support in parliament for the amendments of the national constitution and the relevant Acts of parliament.
In light of that, government will be cautious and ensure that the due process of consultation must take place to ensure peoples’ views and opinions are taken onboard.