The Government Caucus yesterday discussed the proposed federal system of government by comparing it with the present provincial government structure.
The discussions were based on the contents of the 2nd 2014 Draft Federal Constitution and other working documents on the two different systems of government.
The Policy Secretary for the Fundamental Reforms, in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Warren Paia and the Consultant Lawyer to the Constitutional Reform Unit (CRU), Mr Reginald Teutau took turns to explain the natures of the two systems and emphasized how a federal system would be more suitable and fairer to foster a more durable unity than the other system.
The meeting looked at where the locus of power resided in each case and noted how national finance was being handled under the Provincial Government system as compared to how it would be managed under a federal regime.
It heard that the contemporary catalysts or push factors for the country’s move towards federalism were:
- Demand by Western District (including Choiseul) for ‘state government’ at the time of independence in 1978;
- A stronger demand for state government made by Guadalcanal Province in the 1980s,as well as the growing interest of other regions in the same aspiration since then;
- The ethnic tension that showed the fragility of national unity under the unitary constitution; the strength of primordial loyalties and the strength of ethnic solidarity in nation building; and
- The provisions contained in the Townsville Peace Agreement whereby the introduction of ‘State Government’ was made a condition for peace between the two warring parties.
The meeting also heard how the Draft Federal Constitution had been formulated and when the final Draft is expected to be handed over to the Prime Minister.
“A total of eight drafts had been taken to the people for consultation in the period of eleven years and that the presentation to Caucus is part of CRU’s work programme for 2016.
“According to our work programme, a final Draft Federal Constitution of Solomon Islands would be finalized from July – September by a Joint Plenary of the Constitutional Congress (CC) and Eminent Persons Advisory Council (EPAC) and that Draft would be handed over to the Prime Minister in October/November 2016,” Mr Paia said.
Ministers who contributed to the discussions included the Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr Tautai Kaitu’u, Minister for Lands, Housing & Survey Hon Moses Garu, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hon Andrew Manepora’a and Minister for Culture and Tourism Hon Bartholomew Parapolo.
The first four Ministers expressed similar sentiments, that is, that Caucus and the Government in general would require more enlightenment on the features of the federal system of government vis-a-vis the existing provincial government system so as to ensure that Solomon Islands is fully ready for the adoption of federalism. The fifth Minister touched on the cost of implementing federalism.
On this note, Prime Minister Sogavare proposed that that Policy Secretary for Fundamental Reforms and CRU to factor in realistic cost estimates for the operation of a federal structure, as well as more up-to-date calculations on revenue-sharing.
“Now that Caucus has been aptly presented with the overall view of the system, a detailed study of the entire draft would be necessary so that MPs could go through the book and learn more about its contents.”
The Prime Minister said a programme to do so had been prepared by the Constitutional Reform Unit so he, along with the Chairman of Caucus, would organize more awareness meetings in the near future for all Caucus members.