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By Robert L. Iroga

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 9) – Sacked Solomon Islands minister Bernard Giro accepts his axing but argues it would be fair if he was given a chance to explain his side.

Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza yesterday fired Mr. Giro, who was the minister for infrastructure development, and provincial government minister Stephen Paeni for failing to turn-up in Parliament to vote for the proposed Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2005, which was unexpectedly defeated after a vote was taken.

It was one of the major government initiatives once again failed in parliament because of lack of quorum– this time by two votes.

A dejected Sir Allan who presented the bill could not hide his disappointment about the ministers’ absence when he walked straight to two empty seats of his missing ministers asking their whereabouts after the house was adjourned.

"It was a big blow for the government," government backbencher and former minister Clement Rojumana told Solomon Star outside the chamber.

The proposed Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2005, which seeks to increase the retirement age of High Court Judges from 60 – 65 years was passed in the second reading but was surprisingly defeated.

The bill needs the support of three quarters or 38 of the 50 Members of Parliament in order to be passed.

On Monday, 40 Members of Parliament passed it after the second reading; however, after the committee stage when a voice vote was taken, only 36 Members of Parliament were in the house to support the vote. All voted for the bill.

They were all shocked when Speaker of Parliament Sir Peter Kenilorea announced the result saying the bill was defeated.

Former Prime Minister Bart Ulufaálu who was critical of the bill even voted for and he could be heard telling the Prime Minister that it was his ministers that let him down.

Leader of Independent Gordon Darcy said result showed the lack of commitment especially those on the government side.

Thirteen Members of Parliament, mostly ministers and backbenchers’ failed to show-up with only three opposition members absent.

Mr. Darcy said the defeat shows that certain Members of Parliament are not taking their job seriously.

Mr. Giro told Solomon Star last night that he did not mean to miss the voting.

"In fact I was busy with constituency matters but I made it to the parliament," said Giro who arrived just after the vote was taken.

He said his sacking might send a wrong signal to the country.

The minister was among the few who retained their portfolios since the government came to power in 2002.

Mr. Giro said he had served his constituency and the people of Solomon Islands faithfully and he just can’t be judged by a mistake in the final days of the house.

He said despite his sacking he would live by his principles and stick with the government.

Honorable Alfred Sasako replaces Mr. Giro; Gela Member of Parliament Frank Pule takes the place of Paeni whilst East Guadalcanal Member of Parliament Johnson Koli is the new minister for health replacing Benjamin Una who resigned last week.

Meanwhile, the defeat of the bill means that it can only be brought back to parliament after three sittings.

This means that its re-introduction to parliament will be done in 2007.

November 10, 2005

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