Solomons Government Pushing Controversial Development Funds Bill

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Despite opposition, bill first on calendar as Parliament reconvenes

By Elliot Dawea

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, March 25, 2013) – The Government is pushing the controversial Constituency Development Funds Bill 2013 to parliament for debate despite mounting opposition.

Local pressure groups and non-government organisations want the bill delayed pending wider public consultation.

But the Government is not backing away, and had instead set down the bill as the first item in the order paper for parliament to debate when it resumes tomorrow.

Amongst other things, the Constituency Development Fund Bill will give MPs discretion over the use of constituency development funds.

Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) is leading the charge, saying it will petition Speaker of Parliament Sir Allan Kemakeza to reject the bill.

Emerging pressure group Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) is also collecting signatures for a petition it plans to lodge against the bill.

But Kemakeza told the Sunday Star yesterday he hasn’t received any petitions yet.

"What I can tell you is the Constituency Development Funds Bill is the first item of government business in the order paper for Monday’s meeting," he said.

In a statement issued last night, TSI calls on the public to come forward and sign a petition it is preparing.

"We are putting up a small tent at the Commonwealth Street where people can sign the petition.

"It will start around 11am, Sunday, 24 March 2013 (today)," the statement reads.

"We stand that, whatever model the government of the day comes up with to address poor service delivery to the rural populace, MPs must not personally handle public funds and that the Bill must be deferred for a wider consultation.

"To put more weigh in the petition we need you to sign. Come down to the Commonwealth Street and make your signature counts.

"To bring more awareness to the people about the petition, we also organising a radio talk back show on Sunday, 24 March 2013, at 2pm.

"TSI, along with FSII and Anti-corruption Network of Solomon Islands leaders, will host the show."

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo said yesterday the petitions these groups are preparing won’t alter the government’s business for Monday’s parliament.

"Government business for Monday’s parliament is already set. The CDF bill will be introduced to parliament for debate," the spokesman said.

"Groups have their rights to protest. But we need to draw the line. Parliament is the right place to make decisions.

"Anything that is done outside of parliament is unconstitutional," the spokesman added.

The Bills and Legislation Committee confirmed at the hearing into the bill last week that the Government has the number to pass the bill despite public opposition.

Member of TSI and former chairman Bob Pollard told the Sunday Star yesterday their petitioning of parliament is provided for under parliament standing order 16.

This standing order stated a petition may be presented to parliament only by an MP.

Pollard said Aoke/Langalanga MP and Opposition member Mathew Wale will present the petition to parliament tomorrow.

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