GOVT ON PETITION - Solomon Star News


14 October 2019
The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

PRIME Ministers Office (PMO) is taking action against a number of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for failing to register as an organisation.

The move came after members of the CSOs through Development Service Exchange (DSE) submitted a petition early this month demanding Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to step down.

This follow’s the decision by Cabint to switch ties from Taiwan to Republic of China (PRC) on 16th September. 

The switch was not welcomed by CSOs, Malaita provincial premier and outspoken group Malaita for Democracy (M4D).

Fifteen organizations have penned their names to the petition calling for the PM to step down.

The CSOs are; Development Service Exchange, Solomon Islands National Council of Women, Solomon Islands Development Trust, Coalition of Education of Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal Council of Women, Literacy Association of Solomon Islands, Voice Blo Mere Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands Indigenous Peoples Human Right Association, People with Disabilities Solomon Islands, Youth Women in Parliament Group, Sycamore Tree Fellowship, Young Women Christian Association, All People Education Authority, Transparency Solomon Islands and West Are'are Rokotanikeni Association.

According to a response letter from PMO cited by this paper it reads; "The petition submitted contains a demand that the PM resigns and a further demand for the change of the Executive Government.”

It further letter added that CSO by virtue of their regulation are restricted in the activities that they are, law allowed to undertake.

"The actions of the CSOs in making the demand for the change of a democratically elected government by the virtue of the Constitution is unlawful and are subjected to consequences provided by law."

The letter also accused DSE the body that delivered the petition to the government for deceiving funds for a period of 17 years without proper registration.

"I notice that the DSE has initially submitted its application for registration in 1988.

"However, due to some issues, DSE was never registered until 23rd November, 2005;1 17 year gap.

"This further brings into question the activities undertaken by SEC during the period from 1988-2005, a total of 17 years without proper registration.

"This includes being the recipient of funding from donors to DSE, which clearly at that time was not lawfully registered.

"Clearly, during the period where DSE was not registered, DSE had no legal authority to conduct business in the manner it did and for DSE to hold himself out as a legitimate body when it clearly was not, amounts to fraudulent misrepresentation as well as and is crime punishable under our penal code," the response in the letter said.

It further stated that this will be a matter that will be investigated by the relevant authorities.

"There is evidence on file that the DSE had knowledge of this non –registration issue but continued to act as if it were registered.

"Our donor partners will be duly notified of this irregularity immediately" the letter stated.

The letter also highlighted that number of member organizations have not been properly registered and as such have no legal standing.

"A person who does not have any legal standing does not exist as such, I will be entertaining a response to an unregistered entity holding itself out to represent a minority who is loosely organised as a "Civil Society Organization," the letter from the Prime Ministers Office said.

Moreover, the letter stated such action by these unregistered bodies also border fraudulent misrepresentation by certain individuals acting under the auspices of an unregistered body.

A complaint will be lodged with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) for instance of fraud by these individuals, the letter added.

It further stated, "Solomon Islands is a parliamentary democracy; government is voted by the people by the people, to act in the interest of the people, every adult has the right to vote known as universal suffrage."

The letter also talked about charitable organisations with respect to these CSOs under the petition, the following is prevalent; "A number of these CSOs are unregistered and therefore lack any legal standing.

"Some are no affiliates of DSE which calls in question the ability of DSE to act on their behalf.

"Credibility of some CSOs are questionable, there are some CSOs who have signed without the knowledge and sanction of their various leaders," the letter stated.

It further highlighted that a charitable organization under the the country's law can only be registered under the charitable Trust Act (cap 55) (the trust act) and its activities are also governed by the Trust Act.

"However, assuming that all are registered under the Trust Act, I think is imperative that we clarify the role, function and purpose of an organization registered under the Trust Act.

"A prerequisite for registration by any organization seeking to be registered as a charitable organization is that it must first be for a charitable purpose.

"The Trust Act further provides that the PM has power to declare such other purpose as a charitable purpose.

"Therefore, unless the PM has declared political activity as a charitable purpose, any organization registered under the Trust Act is not allowed to be engaged in any political activity.

"Doing so would be a contravention of the Trust Act."

The letter sated that "the submission of the petition is a clear manifestation of an intention by those involved to allow an organisation to act in a manner that is in contravention of a law that governs it."

It further stated the registration of Charitable Trust will therefore be required to act accordingly.

The letter threatens that, "persons found to be using CSOs for the pursuance of an unlawful activity will also be dealt with according to law."

The letter concluded with the statement; "you are hereby put on notice that, I have instructed the Attorney General to locate all registration documents for all CSOs who have signed this petition and provide a legal advice on the petition available to the Executive Government."

Spokesperson for Malaita for Democracy (M4D) Knonly Atu described this move as a desperate government trying to suppress the public from speaking out against the government’s rush decision to switch to China.

He said letter only talks about the legality of the organizations that signed petition, but did not refute reasons why the CSOs have called on the PM to step down.

Mr.Atu said this is a sign of an ignorant government that did not have time to listen to the people that it claimed to have represented.

He said the CSOs have represented the silent majority in Solomon Islands and said "to see the government trying to throw stones that COSs is nothing but a clear sign that communism is creeping into the country after the 27 ignorant MPs made the decision to open the door to the dragon without proper research and the will of the people they represent.

In Auki