Solomon Islands leader takes High Court action over election delay

Photo: ANU Open Research

Solomon Islands leader of the Independent Group, John Kuku has filed a legal suit challenging the legality of the extension of Parliament to 2024.

Parliament September last year passed the extension of Parliament by amending the constitution.

The constitutional amendment though met with opposition was passed in September that subsequently resulted in the deferral of the dissolution of parliament by seven months. Initially, the current house’s life should have been ended in May this year with elections taking place four months after. However, the amendment will now see election likely to take place in April next year. The government’s biggest argument was the delay was to allow for them to prepare for the Pacific Games, which is taking place in November 19 to 2nd December this year.

But Kuku in his submission has raised several questions about the constitutionality of the process that he wanted the court to answer.

He named the Speaker of Parliament Pattenson Oti as the first defendant, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare as the second defendant and the Governor General as the third defendant.

There are several issues that he raised but key amongst them is whether or not two separate readings required of Parliament to alter a provision of the constitution under Section 61 (3) of the constitution requires two separate readings of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2022, can take place at the Third Reading?

And, whether or not the act of final voting required of Parliament under Section 61 (3) of the constitution for the valid and lawful passage of the Constitution (Amendment Bill 2022) can only take place at the Third Reading?

Kuku in his submission argued that the passage of the Constitutional Amendment Act 2022 by Parliament in September last year contravened Section 61 (3) of the constitution and is therefore unconstitutional, invalid and of no effect.

Parliament dissolved on 15 May 2023 in accordance with Section 73 (3) of the constitution and; all seats in the National Parliament are vacant as of 15 May, 2023 pursuant to Section 50 (a) of the constitution.

Furthermore, he claimed that all proceedings by Parliament after 15 May, 2023 including the passage of any bills and motions are null and void.

Kuku refers to Section 6 (3) of the Constitution which states “A Bill for an Act of Parliament to alter any provision of this Constitution (but which does not alter any of the provision of this Constitution as specified in subsection (2) of this section) shall not be passed by Parliament unless it is supported at the final voting on two separate readings in Parliament by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament. The defendants are given 42 days to file their defence.