By ANDREW FANASIA
THE Government on Thursday withdrew the controversial Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill after several MPs spoke against it in parliament.
The bill was still being debated when Minister for National Unity, Reconciliation, and Peace, Comins Mewa was forced to withdraw it.
Opposition leader and MP for East Malaita Manasseh Maelanga said there was lack of consultation in preparing the bill so it must be withdrawn.
“There are no proper consultations on the bill and if we pass it, it won’t work well at all,” Mr Maelanga said.
He added even the legal fraternity was not consulted on this bill.
Chairman of the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) and Member of Parliament for Aoke Langalanga Mathew Wale stated the bill is flawed and must be withdrawn.
Mr Wale said while the bill is an effort to recognise the place and role of chiefs and custom in the governance of this country, in its current form it is flawed in too many provisions especially in areas fundamental to custom.
“These flaws appear to be the result of lack of robust conceptual basis for the policy which in turn led to a shallow consultation process,” Mr Wale pointed out.
“Further the speed with which was imposed on the production of the Bill has resulted in limiting scope of the consultations,” he added.
Mr Wale said that important questions were not explored adequately t all and important groups such as churches, youth and women were not meaningfully consulted.
“Most importantly the judiciary and the Bar Association were not consulted although they possess a significant body of experience and knowledge on the matters this bill is attempting to deal with,” he added.
Mr Wale further argued that custom must not be trifled with, wisdom would dictate that it is better to withdraw the bill and more robust approach is taken in crafting the policy, engaging our people meaningfully leading to legislation that deals substantively and responsibly with custom.
The Solomon Star understands that when the bill was going through the Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) it has been heavily criticised by different cultural groups and the civil society organisations.
The lack of consultation involved in the construction and proposed timeline for tabling of this Bill makes it more controversial by some groups like Guadalcanal Province, Civil Society Organisation and other concerned groups.
The Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities (LLCTC) was also concerned about the tabling of the bill.
LLCTC president Rev Graham Mark said the association is concerned that Laura was not given a chance to contribute towards the bill
These sentiments were also echoed on the floor of the Parliament yesterday, forcing Mr Mewa to withdraw the bill.
The decision to withdraw will certainly not go down well with those who were behind the bill.
Former politician and Government consultant on traditional governance, Peter Boyers, is one of those behind this bill.
It was believed a huge amount of money was spent to formulate the bill.
The bill aims to provide a framework to regulate the traditional governance system in Solomon Islands.
It provides for the institutionalization, management and regulation of traditional governance systems.
It aims to establish a platform to recognize, strengthen and empower the informal governing structures. On that basis, the current traditional governance system will become part of the formal system.
The bill further provides for the promotion and preservation of traditional norms, protocols, values and practices.
Traditional norms and practices are essential aspects of traditional governance in Solomon Islands in terms of identity and belonging to a certain tribe or clan.
These customary attributes play a major role in social cohesion, harmony and respect in traditional Solomon Islands society since time immemorial.
This bill aims to preserve and pass on these customary practices and norms to future generations.
It also aims to empower tribal chiefs and traditional leaders in dispute resolution.