Constitutional experts meet Solomon Islands PM Sogavare

THREE visiting Constitutional experts have made a courtesy visit to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare this week.

Professor Yash Ghai, Professor Nico Steytler and Dr Philip Knight are currently in Honiara to meet the Constitutional Congress on the country’s draft Federal Constitution.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the feeling to move away from the current Central Government to the Federal Government system has stemmed out from people’s dissatisfaction with the current system which has failed to address peoples’ wishes since Independence.

These sentiments were echoed ever since the adoption of the current national constitution during Independence from Britain in 1978 and finally burst out during the ethnic tensions in 2000.

He said the National Government has been listening to people’s expressions and has been working on a draft federal constitution in the last 10 years to ensure that any constitution that is going to be adopted is balanced with the different views and feelings of the people of Solomon Islands.

“It is important that we design a constitution that will always bind us all together as Solomon Islanders and at the same time empower individual states to govern and manage their own affairs according to their interests and wishes,” Sogavare said.

Professor Yash Ghai from Kenya, who has been instrumental in supporting the Constitutional Congress over the years, said the situation in Kenya is similar to the situation in Solomon Islands in many ways.

Professor Ghai said in a contemporary society that is highly focused on a central system does not always reflect the realities of that society.

“Therefore a need to strike a balance between a central government as well as opportunities for communities to do their own things is critical”.

He said striking a balance between the delegation of powers, revenue sharing, and the impartiality of the judiciary amongst others is important to keep a system balanced.

Professor Nico Steytler of South Africa said an important provision in the draft federal constitution which is similar to South Africa relates to the three levels of governments proposed in the draft federal constitution.

“In that regard the provision of community government is important because in a way, it entrenched and strength communities and the implications are strong communities that distribute resources fairly and in many ways people speak through their communities,” he said.

Dr Philip Knight said it is important that in making a constitution, “we do not bind the hands of the future generations but give them the right tools to govern themselves”.

“The fact is that there may be a time in which the future generation see our current problems as not relevant and thereby want to chart their own future. Therefore, it is important to give them the right tools rather than locking their hands,” he said.

He said it is important that we adopt a constitution that caters not only for the current pleasure but such that the future generations will thank us for.

“In that regard, we need that kind of spirit in our undertakings pertaining to constitutional reform in Solomon Islands,” he said.