New Solomons Police Head May Be Too Old For Job

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Constitution allegedly requires public officials be under 55

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 3, 2013) – In the Solomon Islands, newly-appointed police commissioner Peter Aoraunisaka may be disqualified from taking the top job because of his age.

This is the reason behind Governor General Sir Frank Kabui referring the appointment back to Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo for further consultation with the Police and Correctional Service Commission.

Deputy private secretary to Government House Rawcliffe Ziza has told Radio New Zealand International that under the constitution, citizens who hold public office must be under the age of 55.

Mr. Ziza said Mr. Aoraunisaka does not meet that criterion.

"We hold the view that it’s unconstitutional so the prime minister is advised to seek legal advice from the attorney general and then we should act from there," he said.

Mr. Ziza also said the age of former police commissioner Frank Short, who was shortlisted for the job would not have barred him from selection.

Mr. Short, from Britain, is the Police and Prison Service Commission’s first recommendation for the top post but the prime minister instead appointed Mr. Aoraunisaka.

A senior cabinet officer earlier said Mr. Short is over 55, which ruled him out of getting the job.

But Mr. Ziza said that is not the case.

"We look specifically on that, at the requirement of the constitution only but the constitution does allow for non-citizens even if they are over the age of 55."

A cabinet insider yesterday told the Solomon Star Mr. Lilo is currently doing just that.

"The Prime Minister is consulting the Attorney General and the Police and Correctional Service Commission again on the matter," the insider said.

Mr. Lilo last week advised the Governor General as per the constitution requirement for the formal appointment of Mr. Aoraunisaka as the new police chief.

Sir Frank however, returned the file to the Prime Minister on grounds that there were constitutional issues surrounding the appointment.

The cabinet insider spoken to yesterday said age was the issue at hand.

The insider said Mr. Aoraunisaka’s age is over 55, which breached the requirement under the constitution that a Solomon Islands citizen who holds public office must be under the age of 55.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ziza said although cabinet should not have announced Mr. Aoraunisaka’s appointment through the media, it was not unconstitutional because the governor general had been advised.

The controversial appointment of Mr. Aoraunisaka was followed by a car crash a day after the announcement by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The incident attracted a lot of negative reactions from the public.

Members of the public and commentators on the famous social networking group Forum Solomon Islands International have been vocal on the issue before and after cabinet agreed on Mr. Aoraunisaka.

Now if the constitution is to have its way on age, the next on the list that fits the cap as recommended by the police and correctional service commission would be Edmund Sikua, who was listed second to Frank Short. Mr. Aoraunisaka was third on the commission’s recommendation according to sources.

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