The members and the chairmen of the ten Parliamentary Standing Committees in this 10th Parliament were given a chance to peruse through the draft federal constitution currently drafted by the Constitution Reform Unit(CRU) in a consultation workshop at the Paul Tovua Complex, National Parliament on Friday 29th May 2015.
The consultation workshop was basically to inform and update the committee on issues covered in the current draft Federal Constitution so far. CRU is now in its final process of consultation before the new Federal Constitution is tabled in Parliament.
Speaking on the first session was the Policy Secretary Mr. Warren Paia, who succinctly covered in his introduction session the introduction to federalism and its background, the features of a unitary and federal system.
He also covered the co-operative federalism including the fiscal federalism and its transition plus other matters in relation to the implementation of this current federal system of government which will sooner be adapted.
Session two was presented by the Constitutional Consultant Lawyer Mr. Reginald Teutao of the Constitution Reform Unit. In his presentation, Mr., Teutao highlighted the contemporary issues in the 2rd Draft of the Draft Federal Constitution –including; the citizenship, human rights, land, party politics and government formation, leadership stability, motion of no confidence, recall of MPs, state boundaries, rotation of presidency, state policing and security and state correctional services.
During the sessions many questions were raised by MPs regarding the transition of the current unitary system to the federal system that the country wants to adopt.
The Leader of the Independent and Member of Parliament for East Malaita, Hon. Manasseh Maelanga has questioned the equalization transfer of the funds and how it will be administered if the new Federal system is in forced.
Among the 9 state in answering the question, the Constitutional consultant Lawyer Mr Reginald Teutao explained that the funds collected by the Federal Government will be shared down to each state province because that is where the actual resources come from.
“The resources must go back to our rural people because that’s their power and we need to give them back”.
“That’s where the bulk of our population and resources come from therefore rightly the money must go to them, that’s the whole argument”.
Mr Teutao added that this equalization transfer is one of the sources to actually help us move forward. From what we have now will see different levels of development, he said.
“Precisely the transfer is actually to help out so that when we move forward under the present system at least we move in steps so that other provinces that lack infrastructure, human resources will not fall behind”.
However the answer did not go down well with the Leader of Independent who argued that this will result in rich provinces to get richer and poor provinces to get poorer.
“That’s how I see the system will work as a layman’s point of view”.
Hon. Maelanga further stressed that this federal system will develop disunity among Solomon Islanders.
“Smaller provinces that do not produce more revenue will be left behind even if we gave them their share of funds,” he said.
“Currently in the National Government level some of our provinces are still left behind” Hon. Maelanga added.
Many questions were asked and discussed during the workshop by the members and the chairmen of the Parliamentary Committees on the current draft federal constitution.
All Members agree that there is still room for more and wider consultation with our people on the issues covered so far in the recent draft federal constitution (DFC).
It is understood that the first draft was produced in 2004, 2nd draft in 2009, 3rd in 2011, 4th and 5th Draft in 2013 and 6th and 7th draft in 2014.
The reason for having many draft federal constitution (DFCs) is because of the need to improve the preceding draft as a result of ongoing consultations with the people.
The next consultation workshop for MPs is expected in July before it is table in Parliament.