28 Jul 2020

Call for new Covid-19 emergency legislation in Solomon Islands

4:07 pm on 28 July 2020

The Leader of the Opposition in Solomon Islands is calling for new emergency legislation to help the country better cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, is this week seeking parliament's approval for another four-month extension of the State of Public Emergency which has technically been in place since March.

Honiara port, ships, boats, houses, parliament - Solomon Islands

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

But in his contribution to the parliamentary debate, Matthew Wale said the State of Emergency legislation was not designed with a pandemic in mind and was not sustainable in the long-term.

Wale said there were also issues around its lack of checks and balances.

"It would seem to me Sir, to confer too much power on the prime minister.

"Once the governor general delegates those powers, parliament doesn't really have a role anymore. And so there are no checks and balances and oversight being exercised," Wale said.

The Opposition Leader also said unlike Australia and New Zealand where there were different alert levels, 1 through 4, - Solomon Islands' emergency legislation was akin to jumping from 0 to 10 without anything in between.

Regarding the motion to extend the current State of Emergency, Wale said with the lack of any alternatives parliament really had no choice but to approve it.

"I take heart Mr Speaker in the statement by the prime minister that businesses schools, transportation and every other part of society and the economy should be able to function as normally as is possible," he said.

"That Mr Speaker points to the fact that there is this need for that legislative work so that there is that other category that we can go to without resorting to that option of last resort."

In wrapping up his contribution to the debate, Wale commended front-line workers and the government for keeping Solomon Islands free of Covid-19 while still calling for urgency on the development of alternative emergency legislation so that another four months of a State of Public Emergency might be avoided.

The leader of the opposition in Solomon Islands parliament, Matthew Wale.

The leader of the opposition in Solomon Islands parliament, Matthew Wale. Photo: Parliament Media