THE Parliamentary Bills and Legislation Committee (BLC) has recommended that Choiseul and Western provinces join the proposed synchronised National General Election in 2024.
This recommendation was amongst other recommendations made by the committee when scrutinising the Honiara City Council (Amendment) Bill 2023.
Minister of Home Affairs, Chris Laore, revealed this in Parliament last week in his speech to wind up the debate on the Bill.
“This is one of the recommendations highlighted by the Committee when scrutinising the Bill.
“The committee recommends that Choiseul and Western Province to be part of synchronised election and hence be included in the 2024 election,” he said.
“This matter should be dealt with by the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS).
“It has nothing to deal with the HCC Amendment Bill 1999. So MPGIS will need to look into the matter,” the minister said.
Minister Laore added that this matter falls out of his portfolio responsibility as the Minister of Home Affairs.
Solomon Star understands that during the final consultation carried out by Taskforce on Electoral Reform in March early this year, most of the provincial governments, including Honiara City Council (HCC), were pushing for an extension to the life of their provincial assemblies in order to be included in the 2024 elections if it is to be a synchronised one.
Since last year, a nation-wide consultation was held in all nine provinces, including Honiara.
If approved, the 50 Parliamentary Constituencies, 12 HCC Wards and 184 Provincial Wards will all have their elections on 17 April 2024.
Parliament will look into the Bill soon when Parliament resumes next week.
Chief Electoral Officer and member of the Electoral Reform Taskforce, Jasper Anisi, in March this year highlighted in his presentation that for seven provinces – Temotu, Makira-Ulawa, Malaita, Isabel, Renbel, Guadalcanal and Central Islands provinces – the dissolution of their assemblies will fall within the timeline of the 2024 NGE.
However, for Choiseul Province and Western Province, it is going to be an issue.
“This is because they just had their elections in December 2022 and the life of the current provincial government will lapse in 13 December 2026,” Mr Anisi said.
For HCC, the council will dissolve on 22 May this year and the Minister of Home Affairs now has the powers to appoint a competent authority to run the affairs of the city until the April 2024 elections.
For the six provinces of Malaita, Central Islands, Isabel, Renbel, Temotu, and Guadalcanal, their provincial assemblies will dissolve on 11June 2023 and Makira-Ulawa on 11December 2023.
“For Choiseul and Western if they are to come into the April 2024 NGE, the lives of their current provincial assemblies have to be cut short.
“And if they are to be cut short, they will have 32 months outstanding.
“So, the question is; are these going to be compensated for?
“And we don’t have a clear answer on that. But they have the rights to seek legal advice to claim the 32 months as compensation,” Mr Anisi added.
The Western Provincial Government Assembly, after the final consultation just like the Choiseul Provincial Government, are pushing to complete their full four-year term which ends in 2026.
“This is because the government through the MPGIS Minister had denied the two provinces of having their elections earlier last year,” a member of the current Western Provincial Government Executive said.
The two provincial assemblies said they are rather prepared to join the NGE in 2028.
If this happens this means, the current provincial assemblies of Choiseul and Western will run for a period of six years before the 2028 elections.
It is understood that a further consultation needs to be conducted based on the recommendation by the Bills and Legislation Committee for all Provincial Assemblies to join in the April 2024 NGE as it does not go down well with Choiseul and Western provinces.
By MOFFAT MAMU