10 Sep 2020

Solomon Islands govt accused of stripping province of autonomy

2:17 pm on 10 September 2020

The Premier of the Western Province in Solomon Islands has threatened the national government with legal action over legislation which he says has stripped provinces of their autonomy.

Western Province Premier, David Gina

Western Province Premier, David Gina Photo: Solomon Star

David Gina said the Provincial Government Act of 1997 was rushed through parliament without any consultation after the 1996 Act was declared unconstitutional by the High Court and invalidated.

Gina said both Acts were supposed to improve the Provincial Government Act of 1981 but instead effectively stripped them of their self-governing powers.

He told the Solomon Star newspaper this had stifled growth and gone against the national government's spiel of decentralisation and rural development.

"If the national government through the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS) does not address the situation properly, Western Province has expressed the desire to seek a declaration on the role, status, functions and Constitutionality of the Provincial Government," David Gina said.

The threat of legal action from the Western Province comes as Honiara remains at loggerheads with another province Malaita over the country's diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China last year.

Electoral commission awaits funding approval for by-elections

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission is awaiting funding approval from the government for two by-elections it's planning to hold this year.

Well over half of the MPs in the country's 50-member parliament faced election petitions after last year's election.

Of the 28 petitions filed three were successful resulting in three MPs losing their seats.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Jane Waitara, said the commission was ready to hold by-elections for the Central Honiara and Northeast Guadalcanal constituencies while South Choiseul's will be held next year.

Waitara said the Covid-19 pandemic had complicated matters but they had incorporated health directives for social distancing and handwashing into their preparations.

However, she said it remained to be seen whether the government had enough funding left over from its Covid preparations to finance the by-elections.

"We made a submission to the ministry of finance for that and I believe they are considering it and so it is just a matter of time before we get the feedback from them and then we can be able make the firm decision on whether to hold the by-elections."

Solomon Islands election sign

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins