The premier of Malaita province would like to respond to the joint statement by the 9 Malaita DCGA MPs that appeared on Solomon Star newspaper on Thursday, 17th September 2020.
It is an unusual letter to be written and signed by members of the Executive. This statement refers to different arms of Government. What the 9 MPs are doing in their statement is a clear undermining of the separation of powers which is a principle that is deeply entrenched in our democracy. It is an unusual step for the 9 MPs to take and one can only guess whose beat the MPs are dancing to. If they had taken time to talk to the people, they would have been spared the legal blunder.
Firstly, it is not for the MPs to judge whether an act is unlawful, but for the courts. It appears that the 9 Malaita DCGA MPs have taken over the responsibility of the courts (Judiciary) in interpreting the law. They have seen fit to label my call for a referendum “illegal” as if they were the court. As I mentioned in one of my media statements, that call is “simply to facilitate getting opinions of Malaitans, who are Solomon Islands citizens on a political question that has been around for the last 40 plus years. That political question is “whether Malaitans want independence or a federal system or some form of political autonomy.”
The 9 Malaitan DCGA MPs must be reminded that it is the courts’ function to make pronouncements on law, not the Executive Government nor Members of Parliament. What the 9 MPs are doing in their statement is an apparent undermining of the separation of powers that is spelled out plainly in the Constitution of the country, and which they seem to be talking about in their very own statement.
Secondly, it is entirely misleading to claim that the call for a referendum is itself unlawful. Just because the Provincial Government Act does not make a provision for “a referendum” does not mean it is illegal. The Provincial Government Act does not make provision for hiring vehicles or renting houses either. However, they are lawful activities that can and are undertaken by all Provincial Governments, not just Malaita, and not only MARA. Any referendum in the Solomon Islands can be seen as a survey. This is a legitimate action for any government or non-government organization to carry out.
Thirdly, it is entirely incorrect, wrong and misleading, and even prejudicial to public order for the 9 MPs to claim that anything that MARA is doing is an “unnecessary risk to public stability.” Using such language makes it clear that the DCGA and the 9 MPs are attempting to lay a false foundation to dissolve the Malaita Provincial Assembly.
We all know that the Provincial Government Act provides for dissolving the Provincial Assembly if there is financial mismanagement or threat to national security.
Using such language in public, the 9 MPs are attempting to convince the public that Malaita Province is acting contrary to the PGA’s requirements and creating a national security concern. Whereas in fact, MPG is always operating within the limits of the law and not outside the law.
I want to remind the 9 MPs and the DCGA overall of the following facts that are in a well-established record:
- That the issue of self-autonomy that the subject of the referendum came under is part of the MARA Government’s policy as set out under section 1.3 of the MARA Government Policy Strategy and Translation 2019-2023 document. It is absolutely wrong to say that this is a matter initiated only by the premier and his advisors. Such assertions showed little understanding by the 9 MPs of the collective decision required in any government, whether it be at the national or provincial levels. It also demonstrates a deep ignorance of the long-standing and clearly stated policy intention of the Provincial Assembly members.
- That the intention to carry out a referendum is entirely lawful and indeed an example of good governance. Why would any true leader of the people NOT want to survey their people to find out their genuine concerns and opinions regarding self-autonomy (i.e federal system or independence or free association, etc)? Only if that leader did not want to hear the answer or opinion.
- That there is no “unnecessary risk to public stability” as they claim. Indeed, the consistent willful ignorance of the public’s peaceful will regarding the COVID flight from China, the denial of PPE gear to save Malaitan lives, the inaction to proactively investigate the T27 deaths are examples of risk to public stability. All these are decisions that the DCGA and these 9 MPs have made, creating unnecessary risk to public stability.
The issue they raise regarding the M4D is a matter that if the MPS so wish, they can take it up with M4D and their constituents. In the end, the legitimacy of any group in our free and democratic society depends on the people’s will overall, not of nine individual MPs of the DCGA.
As to the Provincial Secretary of MPG’s recall, it is interesting that the 9 MPs are commenting on this matter, not the Cabinet, nor the Minister of Provincial Government, or the Ministry of Public Service, who had previously weighed in on the issue and still cannot find a lawful means to remove the Provincial Secretary who is doing a job worthy of support by the Malaita population. If indeed this is an administrative responsibility as they claim, I see no reason for nine national politicians to enter into this matter.
Nonetheless, the MPG sees this as an act that is contrary to any good administrative practice. Laws, policies, and administrative practices and procedures are not things that are practiced in a vacuum. These instruments must be applied fairly and with good judgment and not in a manner that would make the MPG worse off. These instruments are not created to look after themselves but rather facilitate effective service delivery to the people. In this case, MPG sees that the PS is a pillar in the current improvements in the management of MPG affairs. In the interest of MPG and its people, the PS should continue with his excellent work in serving the people of Malaita Province.
To use administrative processes as a cover to remove the PS from Auki makes no sense. After all, the Government is set up for the good of the people and not for itself.
If there are things the 9 Malaita DCGA MPs should be worried about, it would be the 27 Malaitans that have perished under the policy of a Government that the 9 MPs are part of. The 27 Malaitans that died were sent to their deaths on a ship chartered by the Government of the day, as a rushed response to the COVID pandemic. They were not searched for in a timely manner. There has been no official inquiry, nor report, no apology, and no explanation or compensation to the families and tribes who lost lives on that tragic day.
Instead, these 9 Malaitan MPs were dead silent. Therefore, the mandate the 9 MPs are claiming and clinging on is nothing but a paper one with no practical realities to the people of Malaita and the issues affecting Malaita Province.
If there are other things that the 9 Malaita MPs should be worried about, it is the seizure with no legal reason, of lifesaving humanitarian equipment, and withholding that equipment for almost two months in the middle of a global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Last but not least, let me reminded the 9 MPs that whether you are a National Government MP or a Provincial Government Member, we are all being elected by the people. Therefore, we are all responsible for the affairs of the people. The duty of us as elected representatives at the National and Provincial level is to seek the will and the needs of our people and operate the machinery of Government to respond to their needs and expectations.
The continued attempts of the 9 MPs to silence the cries and needs of the people of Malaita are the exact opposite of what we are all elected to do.
The Malaitan Provincial Assembly, MARA, and I as Premier of Malaita Province are all committed to lawful, orderly, and Constitutional rule. Are you, Prime Minister? Are you Deputy Prime Minister? Are you 9 DCGA MPs who have signed this statement falsehoods and undermining the fundamental principle of separation of powers?