28th March 2022
The Hon. Deputy Speaker of the National Parliament of Solomon Islands;
Your Lordship the Chief Justice; The Hon. Prime Minister;
Hon. Deputy Prime Minister; Hon. Cabinet Ministers;
Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition;
Hon. Leader of Independent Members of Parliament;
Hon. Members of Parliament;
The Attorney General;
Provincial Speakers, Premiers and Members of Provincial Assemblies;
Your Excellency Head of Missions and members of the diplomatic corps;
Reverend Church Leaders;
Constitutional Post Holders and Permanent Secretaries; Traditional Chiefs and Leaders;
Fellow Solomon Islanders;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I bring warm greetings and special well wishes from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and as the Constitutional Representative of Her Majesty, The Queen, The Head of State of the Independent Democratic Sovereign State of Solomon Islands, it is my humble duty and special privilege, as the Governor General, to be able to deliver this “Traditional Speech from the Throne.”
I wish to sincerely congratulate the Hon. Prime Minister and the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA), for calling the 5th meeting of the 11th Parliament to convene today.
Hon. Deputy Speaker Sir, allow me to congratulate you on your election to this esteemed position. I trust that you will discharge your duties without fear or favour.
In my past Addressees to Parliament I have reminded and encouraged Ministers and Members of Parliament of the importance of your positions. I do not think I need to remind you again.
However, the current situation requires all of us to work together to serve our people. We must all put the interest and well-being of our people first. They are the reason why you are all here. All 49 of you represent the people of your constituencies and the views of all constituencies must be respected. It is your duty to consult, update and discuss with your respective constituents.
No view of one constituency should take precedence over another. We all have the right to express our opinions but when there is a divergence in opinion we put the matter to a vote. In a representative democracy such as ours, it is you, Members of Parliament who will vote on behalf of your constituents.
It has been done on numerous occasions in the past during votes of no confidence, election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker as we have just witnessed, passage of supply or financial appropriation and extension of a State of Public Emergency as we will soon witness. This is how representative democracy works, and this must always be the way we do things in our representative democracy.
Status of policy objectives in 2021
Hon. Speaker Sir, in my address last year, I updated this House on the status of policy objectives which I stated in my address in 2020. I will not do this in this address. I believe that each sector and responsible Ministry under these sectors should give the progressive update in their reply to this address in the ensuing days. Therefore, I will leave that to them.
I believe that we can all attest to the fact, that the past few years have not been easy. As a young democracy and a post conflict country we have been beset with insurmountable adversity. We had one of the darkest period in our history in recent time when half of our city was razed to the ground last November and our Parliament precincts breached. As a country and people we cannot continue to take the laws into our hands.
This is a democratic country and we must respect the principles of representative democracy and rule of law. It is rather unfortunate to see these principles being trampled upon with such cavalier attitude. It is indeed sad to see our young children and youths involved in such incident. Whether they were used or victims of circumstance is not for me to speculate on.
However, the fact remains that the rioting and looting has had an adverse effect on our lives and will continue to impact the livelihoods of our people. More than 1000 Solomon Islanders have lost their jobs. These people are the breadwinners of their families, and they also provide support for their extended family as well. This support network has been destroyed by the rioting and looting.
It is estimated that 81 buildings were considerably affected by the riots, of which around 64 would require full reconstruction, with the remaining 17 to be rehabilitated. It is further estimated that a total of 153 businesses were affected: 47 business were fully damaged, 25 partially damaged, and the remaining 81 were only looted with no damages caused to their buildings. The total reconstruction costs of damages to physical infrastructure were estimated at just under SI$700 million.
Damages incurred to stocks were estimated at SI$7 million, and approximately SI$2 million worth of contents were looted. Estimated losses included SI$8 million in forgone rental income and SI$7 million incurred for businesses to cover transitional arrangements to continue trading.
In total the cost of the November riots is in the vicinity of SI$720 million.
Because of the rioting and looting we were not able to table the 2022 Budget last year. The Budget had to be adjusted to account for the damage caused by the November riots.
The cost to re-build will be even more and I am not talking about re-building infrastructure. I am talking about re- building the lives, investor confidence, trust and relationships. But most importantly, we must re-build the social fabric of our society. The decay in our moral, ethical and religious beliefs and principles is a cause for concern. I call on our Churches to guide our people and be the moral compass that our people look to for spiritual sustenance and inspiration.
I pray and encourage our Members of Parliament to display mature and sound leadership. I am concerned about the tendency now to take to the streets when the lawful means of settling political differences is not respected. We must lead our people with truth, integrity and respect. I appeal to our good people of Solomon Islands to respect each other and to uphold the rule of law.
These are indeed trying times but I thank God for his continuous Blessings, Guidance, Strength and Protection.
COVID-19 Community Transmission
Hon. Speaker Sir, when I delivered my address to Parliament in 2020 it was only five days after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. At that time very little was known about this global pandemic.
Since then, I have made a number of declarations to declare that a State of Public Emergency exists in Solomon Islands. I have also made several Regulations as provided for under the Emergency Powers Act. A couple of days ago I made another declaration that there exists a State of Public Emergency in Solomon Islands. I understand that Parliament will debate whether this State of Public Emergency should be extended for the next four months or not. Therefore, I will leave this matter here for Parliament to decide as provided for by our Constitution.
When I delivered my Address last year, it was also after COVID-19 entered our shores in 1 October 2020. In that instance, we recorded the first case because it was imported into our country by one of our citizens who we repatriated, and I stated back then, (I quote)
“This was because we could not stand by and leave our people stranded in other countries. We did the humane thing and we repatriated them and this was how COVID- 19 entered our shores. However, DCGA made a decision to bring our people home and was committed to it.
We may have lost that particular battle but the war is far from over. We have not lost the war, and win it we shall.” (End of Quote)
Hon. Speaker Sir, as we all know, we now have community transmission. The COVID-19 community transmission has indeed stretched our manpower, finances and logistical resources. We must now learn to live with COVID-19. Learning to live with COVID-19 alone is not enough, we must also be resilient. We must and will emerge more united and stronger as a country.
This is the war we must now fight to win.
As such, the pragmatic thing to do is to adjust and adapt to the changing situation. This is exactly what the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement have done.
Policy Response to November Riots and COVID-19 Community Transmission Policy
In response to these two unfortunate events DCGA has come up with the Fiscal and Macroeconomic Response Plan and the COVID-19 Community Transmission Policy. Cabinet has also approved the revised National COVID-19 National Response Plan for the next 6 months.
Fiscal and Macroeconomic Response Plan
The Fiscal and Macroeconomic Response Plan draws on various reports, including a Damage, Loss and Needs Assessment prepared under the Asian Development Bank funded Solomon Islands Sustainable Transport Infrastructure Improvement Program and economic and fiscal impact of the November Riots and Community Transmission undertaken by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands and the Economic Reform Unit, Budget and Debt Management Unit of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.
The 2022 fiscal and economic outlook and implications are very challenging and uncertain with expected decline in domestic revenues, especially in tax collection and export and excise duties. Our expenditure is expected to rise in 2022.
Hon. Speaker Sir, this Fiscal and Macroeconomic Response Plan is aimed at managing these challenges and ensure that we emerge stronger from these two unfortunate events. It will take time, and we may sacrifice some of our development aspirations, but we must be focused and strategic. We cannot spread our meagre resources too thinly.
The Government has, therefore, come up with a number of policy recommendations under this Response Plan.
These recommendations are related to;
I will not say more on this. I am sure the Honourable Minister for Finance and Treasury will elaborate more when he delivers his budget speech.
COVID-19 Community Transmission Policy
The primary objective of the COVID-19 Community Transmission Policy is to manage the community transmission of COVID-19 while protecting the vulnerable population, sustaining the national economy and economic livelihood of our citizens so Solomon Islands can emerge stronger post pandemic. Hence, it is anticipated that we will overcome COVID-19 and learn to live with as we move forward together as one people and country.
This policy response aims to provide guidance and support implementation of high-level strategic objectives that will compliment overarching priorities that is reflected in the 2022 Budget Strategy.
There are 10 strategies under this Policy Response. These are;
Iumi Tugeda is the only way forward. We must unite our people and communities to take a holistic approach to overcome the threat that COVID-19 poses to our society. Empowering the public to take responsibility for the health of themselves and their families is paramount. The Government too must effectively communicate decisions and actions which are designed to achieve targeted health and economic objectives to our people and stakeholders as well.
A whole of society response to this crisis requires all stakeholders including, the Government, Civil Society Organisations, Churches, Businesses, Communities and individuals to work together. It is this kind of response that can nurture volunteerism and build a strong community safety net that emphasise the significance of helping one self and principle of self-reliance. We must learn to take responsibility of our own health.
The critical aspect of the Community Transmission Response Policy is to strike a balance between implementing health measures while maintaining key economic drivers necessary to cushion the impact of recent shocks to the domestic economy and preserve our peoples’ livelihood.
Thus, the Community Transmission Response Policy is a shift from the first overarching objective of the previous policy which was to protect our country from the spread of COVID-19 into the country to living with the virus and overcoming it through the implementation of all the 10 strategies.
Legislations for 2022
There were a number of Bills that this Government intended to bring to Parliament in the last meeting of Parliament. However, none of these Bills were brought before this House.
These Bills are;
Apparently these Bills will have to be carried forward to this Parliamentary meeting. It is best that the status update of these Bills is left to each relevant Minister when they deliver their speech in reply.
Deferment of the 2023 National General Election to 2024
I understand that the issue of deferment of the National General Election is an issue that was recently raised in the media. There are four options available;
These options have their own implications. However, it is for Cabinet to decide. If Cabinet adopts either of options three or four the Constitution will have to be amended. The Constitution provides for its own alteration and it is Parliament that has the mandate to amend the Constitution. I trust that each Member of Parliament will consult and explain to their constituents their views on this matter. I will leave this matter to Cabinet and Parliament for their decision.
Acknowledging our efforts in our fight for recovery from the November Riots and Community Transmission
Hon. Speaker Sir, before I conclude I wish to acknowledge those who have worked tirelessly to get us to where we are now. It has not been easy but you have all stood head and shoulders above everyone.
I want to thank the visiting forces for restoring law and order during the November riots. One can only imagine what would have happened had they not arrived.
I thank the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for their service in protecting lives and properties, upholding law and order and ensuring the security of our people.
I also wish to sincerely thank the Oversight Committee, Camp Management, National Disaster Management Office, doctors, nurses, health workers, police and correction officers, immigration and customs officers and all others who have in one way or the other kept our beloved country safe.
I wish to thank the Hon. Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers for leading and skilfully navigating our way safely through these perilous and unprecedented times.
All of us are now frontliners. We are all together in this fight. We must stand united in solidarity.
Our resolve to keep our country safe must be unshakeable. We must continue to be united in our fight against COVID-19.
To conclude, I want to thank the Hon. Prime Minister for inviting me to address Parliament. It is indeed an honour and privilege.
Today I have informed the House on the DCGA two main policy responses that will guide us this year. Unlike last year, I have placed the responsibility of updating our people and this House on each Minister in their speech in reply.
I have faith in all of us that we will uphold our country’s motto in leading our country by serving it.
At this juncture, I would like to acknowledge all our development partners for their continuous support towards our development aspirations.
To the Honourable Deputy Speaker of the National Parliament of Solomon Islands I say thank you, may God guide and bless you as you preside over this 5th meeting of the 11th Parliament.
Thank you, Honourable Prime Minister for your leadership over the last 12 months. It has not been easy but you have stood firm during this global pandemic and the November riots. I do note that you have survived a motion of no confidence as well. This is a testament of the support that you have. May God continue to protect, guide and bless you as you lead our people and country forward.
Thank you, Hon. Chief Justice. May God bless you and your fellow judges and the national judiciary as you continue to protect and uphold the rule of law.
Thank you, Ministers of the Crown. May God grant you wisdom as you support the Prime Minister in leading our country.
Thank you, Leader of the Official Opposition, Leader of the Independent Member Members of Parliament and Hon. Members of Parliament. May God’s blessings be upon you and our people.
God Save our Gracious Queen.
God Bless Our Beloved Solomon Islands from shore to shore