Constitutional Amendment Bill 1st reading today, Chair of BLC expresses disappoint but cut short by Speaker
The first reading of the Bill to amend the country’s constitution to defer the National General Election from 2023 to 2024 was tabled in Parliament this morning.
The Bill is expected for second reading on Thursday. It is also anticipated to be debated and passed on the same day. The Bill requires an amendment to the constitution for the postponement of next year’s NGE for 2024. Government’s plan is to dissolve Parliament in December 2023 and elections to be held four months later. This is to allow them host the Pacific Games 2023. Amongst its reasons is the government could not hold two major events (PG2023) and election in the same year.
However, this move has been widely opposed by the public and MPs from the Opposition bench.
In Parliament today, the Chair of Bills and Legislation Committee and MP for West Areáre John Maneniaru had clearly stated his opposition to the first reading of the Bill by describing the government as hijacking the process.
He was speaking on the Motion of Special Adjournment moved by the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to Thursday to allow his ministers’ to meet with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia who will be in Honiara tomorrow to hand-over the Friendship Hall to the government.
Before he was stopped by the Speaker through a point of order, Mane had already expressed his position as the chair of the BLC.
Maneniaru said: “I am very disheartened, very disappointed by the fact the prime minister and the DCGA have seen it and decided to my Bills and Legislation Committee mandate and Parliamentary responsibility under standing order 71. This for me is a sad moment indeed of democracy. A fresh and new history penetrated down into our parliamentary democracy history that a deliberate decision was made to bulldoze into our parliamentary democracy process for the first time,” said Maneniaru.
However, he was cut short by the Speaker Oti.
Oti told Maneniaru that the points he raised should be more appropriately raised when Parliament comes to consider that particular bill. This will be on Thursday.
Maneniaru in return accepted the Speaker’s ruling.
Maneniaru was disappointed because the government had gone ahead to table the bill in parliament with his committee holding enquiry into it as required under Parliamentary standing orders.