IT is still unclear whether intending candidates’ practice of chartering boats for their voters to travel to their constituencies is legal or illegal under the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act.
The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) is still not sure either about whether chartering of boats by intending candidates is a campaign expense.
In a response to questions raise to SIEC, the commission said it is seeking legal clarification from the Attorney General’s Chambers.
“The SIEC is seeking clarification from the Attorney General’s Chambers in as to whether or not chartering ships to carry supporters would be considered a ‘campaign expense’ for the purposes of the Act,” the commission said.
According to the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act Section 45, it is an offence for any candidate to spend more than $50,000 on campaigning. Section 45,
(1) States, “Each candidate shall submit to the Returning Officer within one month of the declaration of the result of the election a statement of account, specifying all expenses incurred by him in his election campaign.
(2) If any expenses referred to in subsection (1) amount, in the case of any individual candidate to more than fifty thousand dollars, that candidate shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding 3,000 penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
Over the past weeks, the public has called on the government and the commission if it is possible to amend the act to increase the amount from $50,000 up to six figures.
But the commission said their job is only to conduct the election in accordance with the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act.
However the commission echoed they understand the community’s concern with the belief this amount ($50,000) is too low and will take those views into account when the next Parliament chooses to review the Act.
“It should be made clear that Parliament is responsible for changing the law, not the SIEC,” the commission said.
Now that campaigns are running hot, questions have surfaced whether candidates can be held accountable and be transparent over their campaign spending.
The electoral commission said the Act has stated it clearly what to do in section 45(1) and what will happen if candidates fail to present their statement of account for their campaigns in section 45(2).
By DANIEL NAMOSUAIA