By Sarah C. LaBelle
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania
HONIARA, Solomon Islands – Earlier this month, nine high-level government ministers in the Solomon Islands defected to the opposition, creating an opening for the opposition to call for a no confidence motion against Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Both sides maintain that they have the numbers to rule, causing a political stand off, and rumours are still flying over alleged defections from both sides. (For more on the initial events, please see the Impunity Watch report here.)
This week, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation that four MPs defected from Opposition for the government, but those MPs deny that this is the case. Gordon Lilo, one of the nine initial defectors, criticised SIBC’s report, telling Radio New Zealand International, “Those claims are just frivolous because the bodies are still with us; physically, they’re still with us, and it’s just unbelievable for people to think that people like Steve Abana could ever move, Edward Huni’ehu could ever move, Stanley Sofu would move. They’re just trying to create uncertainty, it’s only propaganda.” Abana, Huni’ehu, and Sofu were among the four recently reported to have defected to the government.
Opposition leader Fred Fono has accused Sogavare and Attorney General Julian Moti of abusing the court process based on Moti’s declared intent to file a case with the High Court yesterday afternoon, seeking a clarification of the constitutional issues surrounding the political turmoil. A spokesman for the High Court confirmed that the Court received Moti’s paperwork, and that while a date has not been set for the hearing, the Court is treating it as an urgent case.
Fono has also called on Sogavare to fill the five open ministerial portfolios for Public Service, Aviation, Peace and Reconciliation, Home Affairs, and Education. Fono says that if Sogavare truly has the numbers to rule, it would not be a problem to fill those positions. However, he suspects that Sogavare is leading the nation with “a minority and lying to the whole nation that he still has the numbers,” according to the Solomon Star. The opposition alleges that they have 26 of the 48 MPs, and therefore the majority.
Governor General Sir Nathaniel Waena has set December 13th as the date for parliament to convene. He rejected both the opposition’s request for December 3rd and the government’s request for December 31st. Waena feels that he is now constitutionally obligated to resolve the political impasse by convening parliament, and he believes that Moti’s court motion will interfere with his constitutional responsibilities.
Interestingly, the opposition group has not decided who will be Prime Minister if they succeed in ousting Sogavare, telling the Solomon Star that the important thing right now is to remove Sogavare from office.
For more information, please see:
Solomon Star – Waena tells PM to call parliament – 26 November 2007
Solomon Star – We’re going to court over date, says PM – 26 November 2007
Solomon Star – PM, Moti accused of abusing courts – 26 November 2007
Solomon Star – Opposition group says removing Sogavare comes first – 26 November 2007
Solomon Star – Opposition refutes report – 27 November 2007
Solomon Star – Fono tells PM to fill up vacant portfolios – 27 November 2007
Solomon Star – Government moves to block parliament sitting – 27 November 2007
Solomon Times – Opposition Members Deny Switching to Govt – 27 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – More claims and counterclaims of MPs swapping sides as Solomons political crisis continues – 27 November 2007
Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands opposition MP grouping insists it has support – 27 November 2007
Islands Business – Government moves to block parliament sitting – 27 November 2007
Islands Business – MPs told to put budget first – 27 November 2007