PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has accepted a letter from the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country informing him of a planned protest march to deliver their petition for him to re-introduce the Anti-Corruption Bill when Parliament resumes next month.
A member of the CSO Anti-Corruption Committee Lawrence Makili told the Sunday Star that the committee met with the Prime Minister on Friday to deliver a letter on behalf of the CSOs, informing him of their planned protest march to the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday 19 September.
Makili said the petition is not only addressed to the Prime Minister but also the Leader of Opposition Jeremiah Manele and Leader of the Independent Group Dr Derek Sikua so they can collectively ensure the bill is re-tabled and passed without fail.
He said the committee initially planned to present the petition to all three leaders at the sometime and this could only happen when Parliament is in session.
However, Makili said after some serious consideration, the committee decided to present the petition on Tuesday 19 September to the Prime Minister and thereafter on the same day to the Leader of Opposition and Leader of the Independent Group to avoid any excuse of short notice.
Makili said the meeting with the Prime Minister was cordial though at the initial stage he looked worried thinking that petition solely targeted him but some explanation by the committee that the focus was on all 50 Members of Parliament, he calmed down, accepted the letter and welcomed the upcoming petition.
He said in the letter, the CSOs requested the Prime Minister and also the Leader of Opposition and Leader of the Independent Group to distribute copies to all other Members of Parliament so they too must prepare to support the bill when put to vote on the floor of parliament to ensure its passage.
When asked what actions the CSOs will take should the Prime Minister fail to re-table the bill or the bill is re-introduced but not passed, Makili said they have alternative plans in place to address any of these situations but will not pre-empt them at this stage due to security reasons.
The Prime Minister withdrew the anti-corruption bill from Parliament on Monday 28 August triggering widespread criticism.
The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) had issued a statement quoting the Prime Minister stating that the withdrawal of the bill was made to make way for a newer version that contains the amendments recommended by the Parliamentary Bills and Legislation Committee.
The recommendations by the Bills and Legislation Committee were made in May 2016 after the Prime Minister deferred the initial tabling of the bill in March 2016.