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The country’s Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have combined forces in seeking signatures of Solomon Islanders nationwide and abroad for their three-point petition on the withdrawn Anti-Corruption Bill.
The petition demands that Prime Manasseh Sogavare re-tables the Bill when Parliament resumes next month as he had declared, that all 50 Members of Parliament unanimously vote in support of the Bill and that the Prime Minister accepts representatives of the CSOs to be part of a group to monitor the progress of work on the Bill in preparation for its re-tabling in Parliament.
The Prime Minister withdrew the Bill - a flagship policy of the government to address corruption head-on- two weeks ago sparking off a public outcry.
A media statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office to selected media outlets in the country quoted the Prime Minister as saying that the withdrawal was necessary to make way for a newer version of the Bill which is of improved drafting standard and incorporates the amendments recommended by the Parliamentary Bills and Legislative Committee.
The petition was put together last week after the CSOs were not convinced by the explanations the Chief Technical Adviser to the Government on the Anti-Corruption Bill, Mose Saitala provided for the withdrawal of the Bill in a meeting they had with him.
The CSOs hold the view that the reasons stated by the government for the Bill’s withdrawal were mere delaying tactics designed for the political convenience of the Prime Minister.
Member of the civil societies Anti-Corruption Committee Ishmael Nori told the Solomon Star that the objective of the petition which they started collecting signatures in support of is to see the Prime Minister re-table the Anti-Corruption Bill next month when Parliament resumes meeting.
He said the Prime Minister had declared to the nation that he will re-table the Bill next month and the CSOs are determined to see him keep his words in the best interest of the nation which has long suffered from corruption.
Nori said his committee has been collecting signatures in Honiara since last Friday and will continue this process until this Thursday.
He said to collect signatures from people in the provinces, Oxfam is responsible for Temotu and Malaita provinces, whilst the Development Services Exchange (DSE) - umbrella body of CSOs in the country- with the National Council of Women (NCW) is responsible for all other provinces.
Nori said the petition was also uploaded on the Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) to obtain the signatures of Solomon Islanders living abroad and also those in the provinces who have access to the internet.
He said his committee looks forward to obtaining many signatures as possible to give weight to the petition, which they will be finalised by next week for presentation to the Prime Minister next Tuesday.
Nori said they are planning to stage a peaceful march to the Prime Minister’s Office to present the petition to the Prime Minister.
He said they are also conducting a radio programme to enlighten the public about the content of the petition and progress of signature collection.
Chairman of Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Anti-Corruption Committee Dr Huddie Namo says the petition will ensure that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare bring back the bill in the next parliament sitting next month.
He said they will pursue the petition because they cannot believe and trust the statements coming out from the PM’s office.
Dr Namo says despite PM’s promise to bring back the bill in the parliament sitting next month, the petition will have to be pursued to ensure the government stick to its promise.
He said contradictory statements from the Office of the Prime Minister does not guarantee that the bill will come back in the next sitting of parliament, thus they will continue to collect more signatures, urging the government to bring the bill back.
He added they have so far collected more than 1000 signatures and they will continue to get more until they reach 10,000.
He added the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Anti-Corruption group needs the support of the public to come out and sign the petition, as it is a step forward to fighting corruption in Solomon Islands.
Dr Namo also stated that Civil Society Organisation Anti-Corruption group appeals for support in their work to pursue the petition, and some of their needs were equipment such as chairs, tables, umbrella, loud hailers and other logistics support.
SOURCE: SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS
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