Dear Editor – Grateful if you could include my observations in your editorial column. Last Tuesday(20/04/16) was a historic day in the record of this country.
I say that because Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer delivered his earth-shattering decision on the brave challenge by Messers Waeta Tabusasi, Ruth Liloqula, Derrick Manu’ari, Fr. Mark Graham, Tony Hughes and Andrew Radcliffe against the decisions of the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission(PEC) that gave generous awards to MPs.
Firstly, I joined others in thanking the five brave souls who were behind the legal challenge.
As well know, the unanimous public outcry against the decisions of PEC is there for the world to see.
Unfortunately, many of our MPs were living in another planet to be worried about the daily concerns of the common man.
For many of us, we had been complaining about the usage and misuse of ‘discretionary fund’ created by parliament and used by MPs in their constituencies.
Thank you Chief Justice Palmer for highlighting the history of the fund and the requirements before the fund can be used.
From my reading of the court decision, it is clear that ‘discretionary fund’ belongs to the public and is not a private fund to be used at the discretion of MPs, thus, it can only be used for the ‘noble goals’ of micro projects and for registered charities in the constituencies.
It is common knowledge that MPs have allowed the fund to pay for air/boat fares, educational expenses,funeral and wedding expenses of supporters.
It is also clear that MPs have a duty to ensure that the fund is used for its rightful purposes, and MPs have a duty not to bring their status and office into disrepute when utilizing such fund.
The court decision to declare as illegal the move to increase the MPs ‘discretionary fund’ from $300,000 to $500,000 per year, exempt the terminal grants of MPs from being used to pay debts of dead MPs, remove the minimum time to be served in the House before getting life pension, increase the surviving spouse entitlement to $150,000, health and medical insurance scheme of MPs, exemption of salaries of MPs from tax, or proposed entitlement of Chair of Caucus, is to be welcomed by all reasonable people of this country.
To the Chief Justice and fellow judges, thank you for re-asserting your role as the third arm of government.
This case has demonstrated that not only is democracy is alive (so as to allow the 5 to challenge the PEC decisions) but that the courts will not hesitate to tell government when it goes astray in its decision making process. Keep it up!
To the ordinary people of Solomon Islands, the decision by Chief Justice Palmer means that our MPs are not ‘mobile ATMs’ to be relied upon when we need money.
I see the decision as helping MPs in clarifying how far they can help members of their constituencies.
No more spoon feeding which will only increase the dependency syndrome of our people.
We must look to MPs help us in setting up micro enterprises that will help generate income for our families.
As is apparent from the High Court decision, members of PEC have forgotten that they are not above the law and their powers are limited and they must operate within the perimeters of the Constitution.
It is my hope that PEC members will take heed of the CJ’s ruling, but if they persist in making outrageous and generous awards under the pretext of Parliament, then the Sogovare government must do the right thing, sack them and or review their composition and the empowering laws.
To all Solomon Islanders, this case should open our eyes so that we should not take things for granted and be ready to stand up to challenge government decisions that are blatantly unfair and without reasonable basis.