Senior officials Tuesday defended government’s decision to extend the life of parliament to five years stating that they can’t host two major events in one year. They also argue that there is no constitutional provision that says “we must carry out consultation” to change any laws.
Government’s intension to extend the current house from four to five years has not gone well with the Opposition, Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) and Solomon Islands Chambers of Commerce and Industry and certain quarters of the public.
But defending the government’s proposal to amend the constitution to accommodate the change, Special Secretary to the Prime Minister Albert Kabui referred to holding the National General Election and the Pacific Games in one year as the chief reason for the extension.
“In terms of man-power, resources and logistics we can’t have both events in one year. So the government feels in order to accommodate the Pacific Games we have to move the election,” he told journalists.
Kabui said the election process itself does not start at the time when the nomination is open but it starts with the registration of the voters.
He said the current registration of voters list is five years old and the Electoral Commission needs to do registration to update the list as by now “we should have a big number of people who are eligible to vote.”
Kabui stressed the Electoral Commission needs to have its registration.
He said if the election were to occur four months after the dissolution of parliament in 2023 registration should start now but that has not happened.
Kabui revealed that the thinking here is to extend the term of parliament for one year.
He said whether to make it only for a year or it will become permanent is a decision that the Cabinet has yet to make a decision on it.
“But definitely the government feels that resource wise, manpower, logistic wise we can’t have two major events happening in one year,” he reiterated.
On the question of its constitutionality, Kabui said it is constitutional.
“The constitution provides for parliament with the mandate to make laws—and provides for altering the constitution,” said Kabui.
He pointed out that since independence “we have more than 10 constitutional changes.”
Meanwhile on consultation regarding the proposed constitutional amendment, Kabui who is also a lawyer by profession made reference to the preamble of the constitution which states that all powers belong to the people but vested in the legislature, executive and the judiciary.
“People exercise power during election day and choose people to represent them in parliament and once they become ministers and part of cabinet then they are represented in cabinet as well,” he stated.
He said of the three, the cabinet is responsible to parliament.
In that regard, he said the cabinet has legal mandate to make policies, parliament has the legal mandate to make laws.
“These legal mandates are given to them on election day. Which means that whenever the cabinet wants to come up with a government policy that it thinks fit they have the mandate of the people by way of being elected which is the executive. That is how the government makes it policies.
It does not need to go back to the people every-time it wants to change its policy. No,” said the SSPM.
In support of Kabui, Attorney-General John Muria Jr. said there is no constitutional provision that says “we must carry out consultation. There is none.”
He added: “We do it because it is a good practice—but in terms of legal requirements to do consultation to pass any laws there is none. That’s the Westminister democratic system that we adopted.”
Kabui confirmed that they had consultation with the provincial premiers, Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA), Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association (SIFGA) and SICCI.