Solomon Islands PM clarifies intention of constitutional amendment bill

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Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has clarified that the constitutional amendment bill 2022 is not an attack on the nation’s democracy nor does it intrude on the fundamental rights of the people to vote.

PM Sogavare made the clarification in parliament when he raised to table the second reading of the constitutional amendment bill 2022 which seeks to suspend section 73(3) of the national constitution to allow for the deferment of the dissolution of parliament.

The Prime Minister said those who claim to be knowledgeable about democracy have failed to provide evidence or legal validity to prove that the bill is an attack on our democracy and that it infringes on the rights of the people to vote.

PM Sogavare reaffirmed the country’s representative democracy is premised on serving the national best interests of the majority of our citizens as enshrined in our national constitution.

He further reiterated the constitutional amendment bill will not prohibit people from voting nor will it curtail any fundamental rights, freedoms or privileges.

The Prime Minister added that if the bill allows for the government to remain in power for eternity then that would be an attack on our democracy.

“I would agree that if the Bill contains provisions to allow the DCGA to be in power for eternity, then yes that would be a direct attack on the right of individual Solomon Islanders to elect their representatives in this august house. But that is not what the Bill is attempting to do Mr. Speaker,” PM Sogavare stated.

The Prime Minister said the bill will give certainty and confidence to the majority of the people, the private sector, development partners and all relevant stakeholders.

“In fact, this Bill will provide certainty and confidence to the majority of our people, private sector, development partners and all relevant stakeholders in accordance with our overarching policy objectives to protect our citizens, support economic recovery and facilitate transformational change,” PM Sogavare stated.

The Prime Minister reiterated that the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) has repeatedly stated that the reason for the deferment of the dissolution of parliament is that government cannot host two major events at once, as the country is still recovering from the negative impacts of COVID- 19 and the fallout of the riots of November 2021.

PM Sogavare further highlighted that the argument of cost relating to hosting both events is just one aspect of it, it is more than that.

“It is not only about the financial cost but also the necessary preparation, logistical requirements which include both domestic and international air, land and sea services that are still not keeping up with current demand. Also the manpower resources needed to ensure that these two events can be completed successfully,” the Prime Minister pointed out.

The constitutional amendment bill 2022 was passed by more than two third support of Members of Parliament late Thursday.

The passage of the constitutional amendment bill 2022 means the suspension of section 73(3) of the constitution is now in effect, and that the 11th parliament will now dissolve on 31 December 2023.

SOURCE: SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS