The Ministry of Provincial Government Institutional and Strengthening (MPGIS) has clarified that the Provincial Government Act 1997 does not provide any power to Malaita Province Premier, Daniel Suidani, to undertake a referendum of any sort.
The Ministry said in a statement, “the Provincial Government Act 1997 (“the PGA”) governs the functions and roles of all Provincial Governments in Solomon Islands and Provincial Governments are required to act within the ambits of the PGA”.
It adds, “The powers of the Provincial Governments are sourced from devolved functions under the PGA. Currently, the devolved functions include trade & industry, cultural & Environment matter, finance, agriculture & fishing, Land and land use, local matters, housing, liquor, corporate or statutory bodies and rivers & waters.”
“From the above list, there is absolutely no function attached to or devolved to a Provincial Government that includes or relates to holding a referendum” it explained.
“Consequently, the PGA does not provide any legal authority for the Premier to hold any referendums. This means that the holding of a referendum will be an illegal act.” The Ministry further added.
The Ministry further highlighted that for the Premier to hold a referendum, funds will be required to be appropriated from the Provincial Funds. However, the PGA is clear that any appropriation will only be for devolved functions. Therefore, any appropriation of provincial funds for the referendum will be an illegal use of provincial funds.
Use of Provincial Funds
Any referendum program will also require the use of funds. Section 34 of the PGA provides that any use of money from the Provincial Fund must be by way of an “Appropriation Ordinance”. Such appropriation is only for:
(a) for the purposes of devolved functions; or
(b) for a purpose for which they are payable out of the Provincial Fund under the PGA or any other Act.
No payment from the fund shall be made unless an appropriation for the purposes of the devolved function is approved by the Assembly. Further, the Minister also has the power under section 35 of the PGA to “limit, suspend or cancel any expenditure, if in his opinion financial exigencies or the public interest so require.”
“Any expenditure for a purpose not lawfully appropriated for shall be deemed as an illegal expenditure” reiterated the Minister.
“Any province engaging in illegal activities will be dealt with in accordance with the Provincial Government Act 1997.” cautioned the Minister.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening calls on Premier Suidani to seek proper informed advice from professionals before making any statements and not be gullible to ill-informed and half-cooked advices that are tainted with ulterior motives.
“Listening to such advises does not only belittle one’s status but also demeans the integrity of the Office of the Premier and will result in consequences that may not be favourable to any party.” The Statement added.