SOLOMONS BENDS TO CRITICISM OVER PROPOSED VOTE DELAY

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 3, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Solomon Islands government may be about to abandon its plan to extend the life of the current Parliament by another year.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that there has been heavy criticism both in the Solomons and internationally of a bill now before the Parliament in Honiara to defer for twelve months the elections that should be held before the end of this year.

"Great Britain, the former colonial power in the Solomon Islands, this week added its voice to the chorus of concern about postponing the democratic elections which are due between August and December.

"Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, expressed Australia's opposition some weeks ago, while the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, said if logistics and funding were problems the Commonwealth might be able to help.

"The Sogavare Government's Special Advisor, Edward Huniehu, told the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation that the offers of assistance from Australia and the Commonwealth were welcome. He said the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission would prepare a project proposal and make a formal request.

"Mr. Huniehu said the Commission could not depend on the government for funds because it hasn't been able to pay its own public servants since last Thursday.

"The country's ethnic war led to an economic collapse which has left the Solomons bankrupt.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

BRITAIN JOINS CALLS FOR SOLOMONS ELECTIONS

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (May 1, 2001 - Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/PINA Nius Online)---Britain has urged the government of its former protectorate, the Solomon Islands, to hold elections as scheduled at the end of this year.

A statement by British Foreign Office Minister John Battle said the Solomon Islands clearly needs to focus on rehabilitation programs and measures to put in place a sustainable economy.

Mr. Battle made the statement on learning that the government is attempting to amend the constitution to extend its term of office.

He said on behalf of the British government, he urges the Solomon Islands government to hold elections as scheduled at the end of this year.

Mr. Battle also said to work towards a sustainable economy the Solomon Islands government needs to govern with a popular mandate, and the authority to take this forward.

The British Foreign Office Minister added that Britain is willing to help the Solomon Islands government achieve this.

The government says that the life of Parliament must be extended because there's not enough time left for preparations for a national election because of problems arising from two years of Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict.

The government says that to avert a constitutional crisis, the term of Parliament must be extended by one year.

Earlier, Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon expressed concern at moves by the government to extend the life of Parliament from four to five years.

Mr. McKinnon reiterated calls by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) at its meeting in London.

This was for "the government and all concerned parties in the Solomon Islands to maintain their commitment to the Townsville and Marau Peace Agreements, and to adhere to the timetable for the proposed parliamentary elections this year."

He urged the government to maintain commitment to the Harare principles and gave the assurance that the Commonwealth was ready to assist with preparations for national elections if necessary.

The Solomon Islands Parliament is due to be dissolved on August 28.

According to the Solomon Islands Constitution, national elections must be held within four months of that date.

Civil society groups have petitioned the government to amend the electoral act or amend the constitution to extend the four-month period during which an election must be held.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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