BREAKING…..Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Robson Djokovic has lost his citizenship appeal after the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands’ dismissed his appeal in its entirety today.
Genesis of the case
Djokovic appealed against a high court judgment on 5th April 2021 in which the judge Patrick Lavery dismissed all his claims.
In his appeal, his lawyers claimed in the proceedings:
i) a declaration pursuant to section 20 (1) as read with s 20(6) and section 22 of the constitution of 1978 Djokovic is an indigenous Solomon Islander and
ii) A declaration pursuant to section 20 (1) as read with section 20 (6) and section 22 of the 1978, as amended by the constitution (amendment) (Dual Citizen Act 2018 that the claimant is a citizen of Solomon Islands and
iii) Alternatively, a declaration pursuant to the Constitution of SI 1978 as amended by the constitution (amendment) Dual Citizenship Act 2018 that the claimant continues to hold his SI citizenship despite also holding Australian citizenship; and
iv) A declaration pursuant to section 48 and 55 (1) of the Constitution of 1978 is entitled to register as an elector and is therefore entitle to vote in any general or by-election.
Facts presented to the court showed that
–Djokovic is employed by the Solomon Islands Government through the Office of PM as Chief of Staff. He also registered in the South Choiseul Constituency for the National General Election in 20219.
-He also voted in the South Guadalcanal Constituency and Djokovic is also the current interim president of Our Party and on or about September 20218, he lodged an application to regain his SI Citizenship/
– On 12 December, 2018 the Citizenship Act, 2018 was passed and between January, 2019 and May 2019 the Djokovic applied for and was refused to be issued with a SI passport.
– Djovovic was referred to the Citizenship Commission to apply for citizenship by the Director of Immigration.
– The claimant was advised that his citizenship application is delayed pending drafting of regulation under the Citizenship Act, 2018
– On the 10th January 2019, the Constitution (Amendment) Dual Citizenship Act 2018 came into force
-On 31 January, 2019 the Citizenship Act, 2018 came into force.
Questions for determination
– Is the claimant (Djokovic) a British Protected person for the purposes of the Section 26 of the constitution 1978 Solomon Islands?
– Is the claimant an indigenous Solomon Islander?
– If Djokovic is an indigenous Solomon Islander, does he maintain his Solomon Islands citizenship?
– Did the claimant lose Solomon Islander status, thus citizenship?
– Does the claimant require the state to confer citizenship on him or was citizenship conferred on him by the constitution of 1978
Grounds of Appeal
Djokovic raised five grounds of appeal primary amongst them is he argued that the judge erred in law in holding that whilst he is an indigenous Solomon Islander and aqquired citizenship on Independence Day, he has since lost his citizenship on the base of the constitution in 1978.
His lawyers further claimed that the judge misconstrued and or misapplied section 23 of the constitution
i The appellant being an indigenous Solomon Islander is not a nation of other country but Solomon Islands
ii Nationality, like being indigenous is acquired by birth and blood;
iii At 18 years, the appellant assumed Solomon Islands citizenship and held a Solomon Islands Passport until 2009 when he lost his passport whilst in Australia and applied for Australian passport to enable him travel.
In their judgment today, the judges Chief Justice Albert Palmer, Justice Edwin Goldsbrough, and Gavara Nanu ruled that all arguments advanced by Djokovic were rejected on the basis that they were inconsistent with the clear legislative intent section 23 (1) of the constitution.
The judges say the respondent’s principal argument is that the appellant being an Australian citizen, was caught by section 23 (1) of the constitution. The appellant therefore had to renounce his Australian citizenship to apply for a Solomon Islands Passport. The fact that he was an indigenous Solomon Islander did not automatically qualify him to be a citizen of Solomon Islands.
Also, the judges said the the primary judge held that by virtue of section 2- (1)(a) of the Constitution, on Solomon Islands Independence Day n 7th July 1978 the appellant became a citizen of Solomon Islands. He did not have to apply for Solomon Islands citizenship under section 20 (2) of the constitution. However, given that he was an Australian citizen, after turning 18 years od, section 23 (1) operated to terminate his Solomon Islands citizenship, thus the need for him to apply for a Solomon Islands passport.
“For the reasons already given we find the primary judge did not err in his decision, especially in his application of section 23 (1) of the constitution which at the relevant times was in force. All the grounds of appear are therefore dismissed,” the judges said.
The court has ordered Djokovic to meet the costs of the appeal.