Solomon Islands Attorney General: Removal Of PM From UDP Party 'Invalid'

Sogavare still a member of United Democratic Party, Apaniai says

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 16, 2016) – The decision by the United Democratic Party (UDP) president Sir Thomas Chan to revoke the membership of Prime Minister from the party is invalid, according to the Attorney General (AA).

In his clarification and interpretation of the recent move by UDP to terminate the Prime Minister’s membership with the party which politically jolted the government, James Apaniai said Manasseh Sogavare is still a member of the UDP party.

Mr Apaniai said the revocation was not in compliance with the Political Parties Integrity Act and regulations and the UDP constitution.

“…because the purported termination or revocation of the membership of the Prime Minister of the UDP was not in compliance with the PPI Act, PPI Regulations and the UDP Constitution, the termination is, in my view, not valid in law which means that the Prime Minister still remains a member of the UDP,” he said.

He said from the facts gathered, no charges were laid against the Prime Minister which is a breach of regulation 29 of the PPI Regulations and clause 27 of the UDP Constitution.

“No 14 days notice was given to the Prime Minister that he was going to be charged for misconduct which is also a breach of regulation 29 of the PPI Regulations and clause 27 of the UDP Constitution.

“The decision to revoke the Prime Minister’s membership of the UDP was made by the UDP President, Sir Thomas Chan, and not by a disciplinary committee which is also a breach of regulation 29 of the PPI Regulations and clause 27 of the UDP Constitution.

“The Prime Minister’s membership of UDP can only be terminated for one or more of the conduct prescribed under regulation 29(3) of the PPI Regulations and clause 27(1) of the UDP Constitution.

“The revocation of the Prime Minister’s membership of the UDP was based on a decision by the National Executives of the 3 parties forming the DCC Government which is no ground for termination as prescribed under the PPI Regulations or the UDP Constitution.

“Revocation of the membership of a party member is an internal matter for the party itself to be made in accordance with the constitution of the party and the relevant laws. This was not the case here.”

The Attorney General said all those non compliances rendered the revocation invalid for the following reasons: 

“Sir Thomas and the UDP Executive have no power to terminate the membership of a party member. 

“Such termination can only be validly made by a disciplinary committee consisting of the Party Secretary and three other members of the party who must not be holders of Executive positions in the Party Executive. 

“No formal charge has been laid against Hon. Manasseh Sogavare. 

“Manasseh Sogavare has not been afforded a fair opportunity to be heard before the decision was made to revoke his party membership. 

“Because Manasseh Sogavare is still a member of the UDP which has the highest number of MPs in the DCC coalition, his position as Prime Minister is still valid. 

“The purported revocation of Manasseh Sogavare’s membership of the UDP does not disqualify him from the position of Prime Minister because the question whether or not he should remain Prime Minister is a matter to be decided on the floor of Parliament.” 

Brief background facts

On Wednesday 3rd November 2016, the PAP Parliamentarians and some members of the PAP National Executive met with the Prime Minister for consultations and to discuss issues raised in two letters sent to him earlier by the three National Presidents of the Coalition Parties. In response to the two letters, the Prime Minister questioned the authority of the three National Presidents to issue the letter.

On Sunday 6 November 2016, a meeting of the a group calling themselves as the Political Party Leaders of the DCC Government comprising Sir Nathaniel Waena (PAP), Milner Tozaka (PAP), Sir Thomas Chan (UDP), Peter Boyers (Kadere) and Andrew Manepora’a (Kadere) met and passed a number of resolutions, including a resolution expressing concern in the ability and responsibilities of the leadership of Hon. Manasseh Sogavare as Parliamentary leader of the UDP and Prime Minister of Solomon Islands. The group then passed a further resolution calling on the UDP to take immediate corrective measures to address the leadership issues. While not saying it directly, the resolution, in effect, required the UDP to ensure that Manasseh Sogavare does not remain as Prime Minister.

Following that meeting, Sir Nathaniel Waena (National President of PAP) wrote to Sir Thomas Chan (National President of UDP) on the 8th November 2016 complaining about the response by the Prime Minister during the meeting held on 3rd November 2016 in regards to the two letters issued by the three national presidents and raising other issues regarding the DCC Government coalition. The letter ended with a statement leaving matters to the UDP to take appropriate action.

On Wednesday 9th November 2016, Sir Thomas Chan wrote to the Prime Minister complaining about alleged complaints by other coalition partners about the non-performance by the DCC Government under the leadership of the Prime Minister. Sir Thomas ended his letter by revoking the Prime Minister’s membership of the UDP purportedly pursuant to his powers as President of the UDP under articles 9 and 27 of the UDP Constitution. The letter said that the revocation of the Prime Minister’s membership of UDP took effect on the date the Prime Minister received the letter.

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