THE Prime Minister’s (Pensions and Benefits) Act 2014 may have been an unconstitutional piece of law.
That’s according to lawyers the Solomon Star had spoken to.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo introduced the piece of legislation in parliament in 2014 before losing his parliamentary seat in the same year.
The Act remunerates former prime ministers who served the country since independence.
They will be paid a pension at an annual rate of 60 percent of the current salary payable to a Prime Minister currently in office, as well as other benefits.
A number of former Prime Ministers are currently enjoying those privileges.
However, local lawyer Albert Kabui, posted on Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII), that he found the Act quite interesting.
“Besides some of the benefits mentioned in the Act, it is quite thought provoking that Parliament saw it fit to enact this Act when the Constitution provides that this mandate rests with the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission as provided for under section 69B (2) and 137 (1),” Mr Kabui wrote.
“Parliament does not reign supreme as is the case in England,” he added.
“In our jurisdiction the Constitution reigns supreme and as such Parliament cannot usurp the powers of the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission as provided for by the Constitution.
“Parliament’s power to make laws is in my view curtailed by section 69B of the Constitution.”
One prominent lawyer, who runs a successful private practice, supports Mr Kabui’s views.
The lawyer, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, explained the Constitution gives the power to PEC to determine entitlements of MPs.
“It’s a very extensive power that covers Pensions & Benefits as well,” the lawyer said.
“The Parliament acted illegally by usurping the function of the PEC,” he added.
However, another prominent private lawyer, who also asked not to be named, had a slightly different view.
He explained there is a difference between PEC and the Act.
“The PEC has power to give entitlements to ‘Parliamentarians’ as
defined,” he said.
“That means people who are currently MPs, Prime Minister etc,” he added.
However, the lawyer said the 2014 Act is intended to give pensions to people who were formerly Prime Ministers.
“As former PMs who are no longer MPs are not ‘parliamentarians’ they are not, in my opinion, the responsibility of the PEC.
“In the circumstances the 2014 Act is not unconstitutional and doesn’t conflict with the powers of the PEC insofar as it purports to award pensions to former PMs,” he said.
The issue was hotly debated on social media with calls to challenge the Act in Court.
By EDDIE OSIFELO