A half-cooked bill - Solomon Star News

A half-cooked bill

17 December 2018

TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands is deeply concerned that the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill 2018 is currently in its second reading before the Parliament.

When the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill wasfirst introduced a few months ago, there was ahuge outcry from the public opposing this Bill and the shallow policy or no policy at all behind this Bill.

There was an obvious lack of in-depth knowledge of the country’s customs, groupings and units that exist under our various customary laws and practices of our existing traditional governing structures.

Of notable concern was the fact that the Judiciary, Law Reform Commission, Bar Association as well as other significant key stakeholders were not consulted.

Where consultations were carried out, it was superficial and of a few chosen and rushed leaving traditional leaders and rural communities confused and left out.

Women were completely sidelined despite the fact that the main thrust of the bill is land and 80% of land matrilineal.

 Again, a Bill has been brought into the parliament that most certainly does not include women’s views thusgender bias and all efforts done to bring about gender equality and equity in our country will again be eroded.

Despite the public’s view, after a short period of so-called consultations, this Bill was brought before the Bills and Legislation Committee in early September 2018.

The Chief Magistrate openly said the drafting did not meet the required standards.

The government has decided to ignore its people’s concerns and go with its advisor’s recommendation, a non-indigenous person.

This in itself is a slap on the learned people of Solomon Islands face, and their views.

During the Bills and Legislation Committee enquiry, again the public’s view on this Bill was reiterated as various key stakeholders made their submissions to the Bills and Legislation Committee.

The majority view was to withdraw the Bill. Submissions were received from the legal fraternity, prominent leaders, and representatives from the provinces and provincial governments, Houses of Chiefs, women and youths, NGOs and CSOs as well as representatives from both the Public and the Private sector.

Transparency Solomon Islands has from the beginning clearly made its views known with regards to this Bill.

These views were also submitted to the Bills and Legislation Committee.

TSI is of the view that this is a ‘Half- cooked Bill’ and joined the public in calling for the withdrawal of this Bill.

Unfortunately this Bill is now in its second reading. This is a clear indication of the government not listening to the cries of the people of Solomon Islands.

Our views are based on what we see in the 40 plus constituencies that we visited, and the issues raised in our office by those affected by chiefs decision who are in the pocket of the loggers.

It is even alleged that the Customary Land Appeal Court, the clerks where these chiefs sit is also in the pocket of the loggers, so here we are going to legalize the most corrupt set up without any disciplinary or monitoring provisions.

The Traditional Governance and Customs facilitation Bill, if it becomes an Act, will gravely undermine the very system that this Bill is supposedly proposing to recognize and protect.

The leadership systems and traditional structures in rural Solomon Islands, a leadership system that is inclusive and appropriate for the communities, tribes where these are accepted by them according to their traditional practices.

The Bill does not cater for the women when it comes to land.

There are quite a number of provinces in the Solomon Islands that still practices matrilineal system and the Billdiscriminates againstwomen in decision-making over lands.

The Bill will also give all the resources to the government and resource owners will have less power over their land and resources.

Transparency Solomon Islands understands that whilst the national government is trying to push the Bill through its second reading, people of Solomon Islands sees no importance in it.

TSI reiterates its call on the Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition for Change Government (SIDCCG) to withdraw the Bill and to listen to the voice of the mass populace.

Decisions made must reflect what the people want and not what a handful of people behind the push for this Bill want.

There are more important and pressing issues to discus and debate in parliament than the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill, a “Half-cooked Bill” that will obviously shatter our existing unique traditional governing structures, culture and customs.

Transparency Solomon Islands on behalf of the resource owners and voiceless citizens call on you Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela, do the right thing for your people in the dying hours of this house as you have done with the Anti-Corruption Acts.

We ask you to withdraw the Half-Cooked TGCF Bill.  What are you fearing?

The house is going to be dissolved and Kadere Party who pushes this bill will no longer threaten the stability of your government.

Please do the right thing for the people and by the people of Solomon Islands, withdraw the bill and send it for further and wider consultations.

You have an Institution of the government that can do this work for you as they did with the Anti-Corruption Bills.

That is, the Law Reform Commission and base way forward on the findings and recommendations based on their findings consulting with people.

The passing of this Bill will indeed create the breeding ground for corruption.

* NB: Government withdrew the bill on Thursday afternoon following oppositions from a number of MPs. This article was writing and submitted before the bill was withdrawn.