Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) says it is alarmed at the front-page media report on Island Sun newspaper which stated the cross border registration is okay.
The report appeared in the paper on Monday 8thh October 2018 with the headline ‘Border – Crossing okay’ and again in yesterday’s Island Sun.
In a statement TSI said the headline is contrary to what Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) has informed the nation via- text messages since implementation of the Electoral Act 2018.
TSI quoted the text as saying “You must register to vote in the constituency of your current resident, do not register in any other constituency.”
TSI said Solomon Islands Electoral Commission needs to be consistent with its messages and more importantly have an office somewhere central for people to access information.
“Cross border registration is widespread and extensive since the registration commence on September 3rd to 27th where people from different constituencies register for constituency they are not residing in or ordinarily residents of.
“Is the SIEC saying that a voter from Temotu can register to vote in Vella La Vella as long as he does the transfer process correctly,” TSI questioned the Commission adding they have already received allegations raised that boat loads of voters have been transported to register in a constituency in a different province and so forth.
“Registration is one of the most important processes of the National Elections. It is a process where eligible voters get to register to exercise their constitutional right to vote for a candidate of their choice to represent them for the next four years,” the statement said.
TSI added it is deeply concerned that with all the assistance and funding poured into Solomon Islands Electoral Commission no civic awareness was carried out before the registration started to inform citizens of the law, the processes etc.
Furthermore, to inform intending candidates and voters that once a candidate wins they are the voice of all the people of their constituencies, men, women, youth, children and not just the people who vote for them, it added.
Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) said it has received several election related queries from constituencies outside and inside Honiara seeking information and clarification on this very same issue.
“Voters were advised to seek information directly from the electoral office, but the usual story is no one around to answer their queries.
“Most often they complained that their phone call to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer were not answered and this is a worrying trend,” the statement said.
To help the eligible voters of this country and intending candidates get the correct information, from the right authority, TSI urges Solomon Islands Electoral Commission and its Chief Electoral Officer to appoint an information officer with a dedicated phone line to attend to people’s queries.
“This is very important because the Solrice strategy and the SMS are inadequate especially in a country where the majority are illiterate and don’t own a phone and have no money to buy the Solrice,” the statement said.
Just like Transparency Solomon Islands calling for SIEC and SECSIP to carry out awareness on the new electoral law to ensure voters understand the meaning of provisions stipulated in the the Electoral Act 2018, so do the Constituencies.
The message coming out of the SIEC is not helpful either as people struggle to get some good advice on transferees and cross-border voters, TSI said.
Transparency Solomon Islands said it also notes that section 4 of the Act which deals with the definition of ordinarily resident which might have helped in clarifying some of these issues has not come into force and it looks like it won’t apply to the upcoming elections unless the Minister sets the date before pooling day. Under s4 of the Electoral Act 2018 the meaning of “ordinary resident” are as follows:
Section 4. Meaning of “ordinary resident”
 For section 55(2)(b) of the Constitution, a person is “ordinarily resident” in a constituency if:
(a) the person has been continuously residing in the constituency for at last 6 months; or
(b) the person is taken to have been residing in the constituency under subsection (2)
(2) A person is taken to have been residing in a constituency even if the person is not residing in the constituency if the person is entitled to be or is a member of a group, a tribe or line indigenous to the constituency.
(3) For subsection (1)(a):
(a) a person resides at a place if the person has chosen to make the place his or her usual place of residence; and
(b) a person’s usual place of resident is not affected only by temporary absences from the place, even if an absence involves occasional or regular residence at another place; and
(c) a person is not taken to be residing in a place only because the person owns a dwelling at the place.
Whatever the reasons for not enforcing this section are, Transparency Solomon Islands doubts its helpfulness in clarifying what we now see with regard to cross-border voters.
“It is very poor and more confusing and is an indication of a public service that is no longer able to guide our political leaders. We urge the responsible Minister to refine it before enforcing it,” TSI said.
TSI urges SIEC/SECSIP to ensure they carry out awareness in the next electoral cycle before the start of registration process to minimize and avoid the discrepancies when the registration is conducted for the 2023 National General Election.
“Most constituencies are in the rural areas. Most of the people in the rural areas are illiterate about the new Electoral Amendment Act and the Electoral Act 2018 therefore face to face and simplified awareness materials and presentations are needed,” the TSI statement noted.
Transparency Solomon Islands said it is pivotal for Solomon Islanders need to know about the registration and what the new electoral Act say to ensure they comply with.