The speech by the Leader of Opposition Hon. Fred Fono on moving the
motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister,
Mr FONO: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your ruling. I am surprised at Ministers questioning the Motion. If you have the number you do not need to worry.
Mr Sir, I beg to move that the
National Parliament of Solomon Islands hereby resolves it has no confidence in
the Prime Minister. As the Leader of
Opposition, Mr Speaker, I am duty bound, it is my duty to move this motion. Mr Speaker, this is part of the job of a
Leader of Opposition. There is nothing personal between the Prime Minister and
me. There is nothing personal between
his Ministers and Members of the Opposition Group in Parliament. Mr Speaker, this is how democracy works. This merely shows we have a functioning
Mr Speaker, from the outset I must categorically deny that this motion was influenced by any foreign force or any development partner or any other country, not at all, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, since this is my first
time to move a motion of no confidence in Parliament, I wish to dedicate this
motion to the children of
Mr Speaker, I dedicate this motion
also for the women of
Mr Speaker, I also wish to dedicate
this motion to those who have special needs in
Sir, before we proceed, I would like to clarify what a motion of no confidence is. This explanation is important for those who are listening to the proceedings of this Parliament, throughout nation this time. It is important too, to cast out any doubts and dispel any fears as to the purpose of this no confidence motion.
In terms of parliamentary democracy,
a motion of no confidence is part of the ‘check and balance’ system allowed
under the constitution. In order to
maintain the balance of the system of governance, the Opposition has to check
or monitor the work of the government day.
The Opposition therefore acts as a thermometer of/for the government and
for that matter the Opposition is a very important part of the government of
The Opposition moves a motion of no confidence also when it sees the government exceeding its mandate given under the constitution, of course, a parliamentary oversight function. A vote of no confidence therefore allows changes in government without resorting to violence. A vote of no confidence allows peaceful changes, even a regime change without the use of arms like in other countries and also as we have experienced in the recent past.
Without a vote of no confidence, Mr Speaker, we will takeover government whenever we feel like it; we will takeover government when we have the means; or we will takeover government when we have the number to do so. That is why a motion of no confidence is a very important part of the system of government that we have in this country. It is not new Mr Speaker, and it is not bad either. We thank God it is not violent. It is just part and partial of the system we have, mandated under our constitution.
Mr Speaker, why does the Opposition decide to bring a motion of no confidence at this time, a lot of people have been asking? Mr Speaker, that is a very important question. It is also important because it naturally leads to the reasons why a motion is brought at this point in time in the life of this Parliament.
“WHY WE CANNOT WAIT”
Mr Speaker, until a month ago we were going to wait - with a motion of no confidence. We were very patient, and in fact we are a patient lot. Indeed we are very confident of who we are and what we will do. However, with the kind of a leader that we have, in the person of the Prime Minister, himself, having such patience will not serve the nation. Being patient, for example Mr Speaker, would not save the former Attorney General, a very experienced and well educated Solomon Islander from losing his job.
Mr Speaker, from the judgment of the High Court, the former Attorney General was not at fault. He did not commit any offence. Rather, as the Court went into the first five pages of the judgment to explain - he was merely doing his job, notwithstanding, with the kind of unprincipled leader that we have in the Prime Minister; a leader who says one thing and does the opposite - we could not wait.
Mr Speaker, with the kind of erratic decisions we have seen from an unprincipled leader, we could hardly wait. If we did so, Mr Speaker, it could happen that he might have someone else sitting in your place instead of a duly elected Speaker in the person of your goodself. In other words, Mr Speaker, patience would cost the country in terms of finance, but more importantly it will cost the country dearly, in terms of the lives of our people whom the Prime Minister enjoys trampling on. Even for national parliamentary leaders of this country, Mr Speaker, this Prime Minister would not wink an eye to dismiss them, even when they are ministers of the crown. Mr Speaker, we have a Prime Minister who does not ask for a second or third opinion before he axes people. Mr Speaker, this is a man who does not consult, but this is a man who enjoys dismissing others.
At first, Mr Speaker, hr might have thought it was an accident. The second time it could have been a coincidence. On the third occasion it might be nothing but a habit, a bad habit.
Mr Speaker, the Opposition would like to save the nation through this vote of no confidence. In the last five months we have the Prime Minister at the helm of this country and this nation suffers more than in any five months of any of our previous administrations.
Mr Speaker, in this vein, the
Opposition is not only carrying its mandated duty but the Opposition is being
duty-bound to attend to saving the lives of each and every person in
Mr Speaker, today the Opposition is
responding to the cry of this country, more especially we are responding to the
cry of members of the public in
Mr Speaker, if we look at the leadership we have at the moment, as I have said it is the person of the leader and his style of leadership that is central to this motion of no-confidence today.
Speaker, there is nothing wrong with the air in
Mr Speaker, the present Prime Minister is a person who assumes what he thinks and what he says only is a right thing. In fact, what he thinks and says - that is the only thing, even if it is not necessarily right. Any person’s opinion or experience is immaterial. That is why Mr Speaker, it is very dangerous, so to speak.
Mr Speaker, unlike former Prime Ministers who were embracing and consultative in their style of leadership, we have the opposite as reflected in previous decisions over the last five months. It is what he says that remains a command. Unlike other Prime Ministers who seek the opinion of his colleagues or consult widely with their technical people behind their decisions, we have a Prime Minister’s style of leadership that is very questionable.
Mr Speaker, this Prime Minister has a style of leadership that speaks fear in the hearts of his colleagues and subordinates. This is a leader whom anyone joins at his own risk.
‘ABUSE OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY’
Mr Speaker, the other reason for this motion is the abuse of national sovereignty. This is a Prime Minister who talks so much about the sovereignty of this nation. If the leadership of this Prime Minister does not change, this is not all. This Prime Minister abuses the sovereignty of this nation for his own ends. This is a person who sells the sovereignty of this country, although in the same breath, he pays lip service to the importance of national sovereignty.
Speaker, sovereignty in short can be defined as “the possession of ultimate legal authority”. That means we are legally recognized to do
our own things, as legitimized by law, as long as our actions (or inactions) do
not affect or offend other countries or other nations, states or persons. There is a sense of sanctity in reference to
the sovereignty of this nation. It is a
notion that is practiced with pride. We
call ourselves Solomon Islanders, we call our nation
Mr Speaker, sovereignty is not mere rhetoric. Hemi no word nating. It is expressed through our actions and practices. If we say that we are sovereign but fail to show that in our practices, especially in our everyday practices, then we should question whether we are truly sovereign or not.
Speaker, when the present leader exposits sovereignty, he either means
something else or has an incomplete understanding of the word. I said this because when the Prime Minister
expresses sovereignty, he believes it in such a way that he blindly pursues his
course to the end, regardless of the consequences. In so doing, we have a Prime Minister that
undermines the very sovereignty that he wants to uphold in the first
place. Take for example, Mr Speaker, the
case of the Attorney General designate.
In the name of sovereignty, the Prime Minister had afforded diplomatic
immunity to the Attorney General designate in Solomon Islands Embassy in
In so doing, the Prime Minister has entangled his assertion of our sovereignty with the work of Law and Order in PNG. This had caused a huge diplomatic uproar than the Prime Minister has expected.
Sir, we should not allow our High Commission to be used as safe haven for criminals, whether or not they hold high offices in this country or any other countries, for that matter. Sir, this is a bad precedent.
If the Attorney General designate is allowed to escape facing the PNG courts on the basis of our sovereignty, and which he had already done, then we can allow everyone else who wants the same, foreigner or citizen, holders of high offices or ordinary criminals to do just the same.
Sir, it is clear that the criminal action of the Attorney General designate is undermining the sovereignty of this nation that we talk so much about. We are being made a laughing stock in the international community for protecting a criminal. (The incident of yesterday reflects very badly on our sovereignty).
Another example of abuse of our sovereignty, this time, is the twisted fashion, although no less serious, is the case of where the Prime Minister allowed a foreigner, in the person of the General Secretary of SOCRED Party to meddle in our politics. Where is the sovereignty of our nation, may I ask Mr Speaker? This foreigner is not yet a citizen but a secretary of a political party the Prime Minister is leading.
The Prime Minister had allowed his General Secretary so much allowance that recently he meddled and messed up with our banking institutions. If this is not enough, this person had gone into the media and abused our women leaders. Even then the Prime Minister had not done anything to stop this foreigner neither issue any statement to condemn his actions. Mr Speaker, if this is not abuse of our national sovereignty by this foreigner, I am not sure what you would call this.
Sir, when we want to restore our
sovereignty damaged during the ethnic tension or which was only held by a few
with guns in the name of sovereignty, for example, we want to rebuild this
nation. Sir, in rebuilding the nation we
need RAMSI as an expression of neighborly support (helpem friend). But we expel the Australian High Commissioner
whom we have disagreed with, for one reason or another or even for our own
personal reasons, we have undermined the effort required to rebuild the nation
and restore our sovereignty. And since
Mr Speaker, indeed, our sovereignty is not for sale. In the same breath we must know more than that simple shibboleth. We must know and appreciate the sinews, with which we build our sovereignty. We must appreciate this especially after an ethnic tension as we have recently experienced.
For sure, Mr Speaker, sovereignty for a poor and weak country, does not mean much. Therefore, we want to build our country to make it strong, to make it a truly sovereign nation. This Prime Minister undermines this whole process. After that he then turns around and says that he is doing this to protect our sovereignty.
Speaker, saying all this is not realistic; it does not serve of purpose,
especially when we are weak. Not when
Speaker, I again repeat our sovereignty is not for sale. At the same time, Mr Speaker, it is a moving
concept. It needs to move with time, in
such a manner that will make Solomon Islanders a truly sovereign nation. From the way the Prime Minister has behaved
we would drop down - dead - with sanctions before we realize that all along, we
have failed to learn simple lessons from the maze of modern day diplomacy. In other words, we will learn when it is too
late that our sovereignty depends also on the support of our neighbors and our
development partners. Mr Speaker, friends are, of course, the whole family of
nations as we are part of the International Community. Take for example, Mr Speaker, if the
diplomatic standoff between
INTERFERENCE IN THE JUDICIARY
Mr Speaker, the other reason for this vote of no confidence, for the nation to hear, is interference in the judiciary. In the history of our young nation, as far as we know, read and we can recollect, this is the first Prime Minister who has unabashedly interfered with the work of the judiciary. This is the first Prime Minister who has acted as a “court to himself”.
Mr Speaker, the separation of power principle serves as an important purpose. The concentration of power in one group or person always presents dangers. Therefore, in our system of government, power is divided among the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Although there are overlaps, the three branches function within the ambits of their constitutionally mandated authorities. That is why we do not have an autocracy in this country. Not yet, and we thank God for that.
Recently, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister wanted to change all these. He wants to have a bit of power from each branch - all at the same time. When he took power after the April riots he began to experiment with judicial interference. Realizing that two Members of Parliament who were very instrumental in his power play were taken into custody he immediately promoted them to become Ministers of the Crown
Mr Speaker, how it would ever be possible for two Ministers of the Crown to deal with government matters when they are in Police custody. It is an issue the Prime Minister alone can answer. For mere mortals like us, Mr Speaker, we would find it hard, if not impossible, to comprehend such an action.
Sir, if anything, the Prime Minister’s action appeared to have ridiculed the two MPs in custody. We know that a person in police custody does not have freedom. If this is not enough the Prime Minister then instituted a commission of inquiry into the April riots. This is a sheer ridicule of his supposed intelligence. The best our people would have expected was for the Prime Minister to institute a Commission of Inquiry into the recent ethnic tension, and not just the April riots.
Mr Speaker, there is more. When the Prime Minister began work on the Commission of Inquiry, the purpose of the inquiry was clear under paragraph 6 of section B of a leaked secret document, one of the major purposes of the proposed Commission of Enquiry was made clear. Referring to the terms of the Commission of Inquiry, it states:
“Paragraph 2 (d) & 2(e) are obviously contentious, and, Cabinet’s wisdom is crucial to guide the Prime Minister. Whilst there are political motives behind the inclusion of the paragraphs, the paragraphs referred to as, especially 2(e) seeks ultimately to halt the investigation conducted by the police on the cases of our two detained colleagues and subject them to a proper, holistic and independent investigation by the Commission of Inquiry”.
Mr Speaker, this exposes the purpose behind the Commission of Inquiry into the April riots. In retrospect, this clearly shows interference in the work of the Courts. This document, itself, is full of references that allude to the interference of the court. Under paragraph 10 in section B, the document states and I quote:
‘It is becoming clear that the attitude of the court
and the way it handles the case of our two colleagues is tainted within
inconsistency and abuse of (due) process.
A clear example is the alleged collusion between the sitting Magistrate
and the DPP on
Mr Speaker, this leaked document was produced while the two MPs case were already in custody, under police investigation. Their case was already sub judice.
Mr Speaker, I shall stop here because what the Prime Minister as a leader had done or failed to do has amounted to a blatant interference in the judiciary. This shows a kind of leadership we have served under. One that does not stop at anything until it achieved its aims or its ends, a leadership that pursued its aims, regardless of whether such aims are legal or not.
Before I actually stop, Mr Speaker, I
want to mention here that this habitual interference into the work of judiciary
on the part of the Prime Minister knows no boundary or national limits. Last week, Mr Speaker, we heard the Prime
Minister again interfered into the work of the judiciary. This time it was interference in the
Mr Speaker, last month again the
Prime Minister interfered into the work of the Police and the Courts in
Mr Speaker, this is the Attorney General designate who was alleged to have given a private scholarship to a child of the former Chief Justice. It was also alleged that, in turn, the former Chief Justice awarded this Attorney General designate with a QC status. Mr Speaker, this is common knowledge amongst our people. No wonder we are promoting them to higher offices in our government.
Sir, if there is a lesson we can learn from all these, it is the message that, as leaders of this country, we must respect the sanctity of the ‘separation of powers’ that had served us well for so long. We must ensure our judiciary’s independence remain unfettered or intact. As ‘first among equals’, this is a lesson our Prime Minister should have heeded. Unfortunately, this Prime Minister assumes he is above reproof.
ABSENCE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE
Mr Speaker, the fourth reason for
this motion is the absence of good governance.
In terms of good governance this is what the Prime Minister is good at
professing with his Minister of Public Service, but extremely poor putting it
into practice. He has failed to model
this nation and the people of
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister defies and infracts these procedures and practices at will. Good governance means that if people are gainfully employed, you should not sack them unless they break the law of the land. If they do, they have to be dealt with according to set administrative procedures.
Allow me, Sir, to remind us that in
Mr Speaker, this is what the Prime Minister has failed to do. When he came into power, there were procedures in place to employ the Permanent Secretaries. There were more than 80 applicants. The Public Service and the Public Service Commission were going to process the application and set dates for the interviews and make the selection. In the meanwhile, the Prime Minister was abroad. When he returned, he scraped the whole process and put in his own candidates as permanent secretaries. That was why we were questioning the process of the selection of Permanent Secretaries. He ignored the whole process that was already in place, the conventional practice of appointments and selection of Permanent Secretaries as provided for under law. He had inadvertently caused so many heartaches for those who have worked so hard organizing and submitting their applications.
There is more, Mr Speaker, but I would like to end this part with the much publicized case of the sacked Attorney General. Mr Speaker, just because we do not like a person, just because we do not like his forthrightness, just because he or she sticks to the Rule of Law against our miscued political aspirations, just because he takes on his role as Attorney General as well as representative of the crown where public interest is at stake, that is no reason to sack such a person. The former Attorney General was a well educated and a very experienced lawyer. His post is a constitutionally mandated post. He has been doing the job for more than ten years, under four different administrations. Mr Speaker, for the Prime Minister, these were not enough. In the end he knows for himself that he cannot please his own self. That is sad Mr Speaker.
Just because he did not like the former Attorney General he sacked him. Mr Speaker, we do not have to like everyone. We should not dislike, anyone for that matter. Mr Speaker, we should sack people because we believe we can get legal advice from other people, outside the country, or other private lawyers whom we have vested interest in who are not accountable to us.
No, Mr Speaker, good governance means following the rule of law. Good governance means complying with set procedures. Good governance means making sure people are employed in a legally sanctioned fashion. And when they are terminated, good governance demands that this must be done procedurally.
This is good governance, Mr Speaker. Not because you happen to be the Prime Minister. No, Mr Speaker. Rather it is because you follow the rule of law. It is because you follow procedures so that the work of this nation moves on. And having done all these, you would prove yourself a worthy leader because in the end the country is served.
On that score, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister has failed us miserably.
The fifth reason, Mr Speaker, is corruption is now beginning to brew in the administration. Mr Speaker, this is a Prime Minister who comes into power on the promise that he would, once and for all, eradicate corruption in this country. This is inserted under their “Ethical Leadership” policy agenda. This Prime Minister has made us so hopeful when he said he would want to see things put right.
Mr Speaker, he then went
further. When the Prime Minister came
into power he even promised that he would put an end to what he had alleged as
Mr Speaker, what has come out of all these promises? Not much. Instead we have seen that he had recanted and reneged all these promises. Was he merely making these promises in order to garner support to get into power, may I ask Mr Speaker? We shall leave the public to be the judge of this proposition.
Mr Speaker, if corruption is a
priority, we have yet to see the anti-corruption bill introduced in
Parliament. Even the
In the last week or so, Mr Speaker, Taiwanese doctors have visited us to assist with the sick, the blind, the diabetic, and those who have serious lifestyle diseases. We appreciate that very much. However, Mr Speaker in other words, as leaders let us not say things that we will later regret. This is not befitting of leaders. Leaders should say things that build their people, their words would bring more friends to the country, and leaders should discuss issues that would raise our confidence and allow us to work towards a brighter future.
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister seems to enjoy doing just the opposite. Instead of arresting the issue of corruption, he seemed to have thrived on it. Allow me, Mr Speaker, to enumerate a few examples. As I have said where is good governance in all these? He has hand-picked all his Permanent Secretaries, he has hand-picked the Commissioner of Forest, he has hand-picked the Commissioner of Lands, he has hand-picked the Security Services overseeing premises like the Prime Minister’s Office, the Department of Finance, the Department of Infrastructure and others. He has hand-picked the very controversial Attorney General.
Fortunately for this country, Mr Speaker, for the last case, we still have a strong Legal and Judicial Commission that believes in doing the right thing.
Mr Speaker, for all these appointments, “Why has the Prime Minister allowed the right procedures not to be followed, even if he had earmarked his candidates for these posts?”
This is not all, Mr Speaker. There are others. For a person to dubs himself, an anticorruption champion, this is just amazing. All these, involved huge payments of our tax payers’ monies.
I take here the example that was
questioned this morning as well on the awarding of contract to a supplier in
I have information from the Public Tender Office in the Department of Finance that there was no tender put. That is why I asked earlier on during the supplementary budget for the government to produce the notice of the tender to Members of Parliament. Why did we hand-picked the supplier to provide those vehicles at $3.8million as stated by the Minister of Infrastructure. Why? I am asking where is good governance. We awarded it to a supplier who housed us during the election of the Prime Minister in April. That is the case, Mr Speaker. Where is good governance in all these? Where is transparency, accountability? I have no records of public tender for these vehicles. May be out of this $3.8million there are commissions, there are kick backs - a term normally used in such deals - kick backs. The government must come out very clear on this. That is why I said that there is corruption brewing in the new administration now.
In terms of the Social Security Company employed at the Prime Minister’s Office, Finance and other government properties, why was there no public tender? There are dozens of Solomon Islanders involved in security companies. Why don’t we give them money for the opportunity? They are Solomon Islanders. Why hand-pick? Is this not corruption? The contractor that was terminated earlier this year when the new government came in, is now suing the government for breach to its contract.
Mr Speaker, is this not corruption? Why is it not tendered out so that other Solomon Islanders can bid for it? That is accountability, transparency and good governance. Sir, we must put these things right before corruption becomes an overwhelming disease in the government.
No, Mr Speaker, as I have said this is a Prime Minister who says one thing and does just the opposite. The securities that are now providing security, I am told were the ones providing security at the Iron Bottom Sound during the election of the Prime Minister. It is public knowledge. Are we giving job for the boys because they supported us in taking the power of this nation? Isn’t that corruption Mr Speaker, may I ask?
Mr Speaker, the sixth reason for
moving this motion is the
Mr Speaker, when the leaked secret document was read, the whole impetus behind the April riots was revealed. The Prime Minister was so keen to have a commission inquiry because there are hidden motives of this commission of inquiry.
Mr Speaker, allow me to say this here. We do not have to instigate a riot or riots in order to measure the magnitude and the gravity of our peoples’ state of mind or their level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. If we do, we will merely indulge in mayhem, and in the end destroy ourselves. Mr Speaker, that is not the way to run a country.
Mr Speaker, that is why history and
experience have shown that the Rule of Law must function. If there is dissatisfaction, there are
channels that people can use to vent their anger, their satisfaction or
grief. These channels are not
perfect. Far from it, but they
work. They work if we leaders make them
work. They will work if we refrain from
committing crimes for the sake of gaining power. It will work if we make sure that the system
we received from
Finally, Mr Speaker, it would work if Members of Parliament cease to think they know all, listen to the ordinary people and then work with their technical people, devise policies that will in the end give life to all of our people in the country. These people include those who are born Solomon Islanders and those who come to live with us.
Sir, no one, and the Prime Minister
is no exception, should use this country, its institutions, its people as
fodder for the power-play he/she wants to indulge in. Mr Speaker,
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, allow me
to thank you all our good people of
Today, people of
Mr Speaker, I therefore call on every Solomon Islander to respect the supreme law of this land. If we finally manage to oust the Prime Minister, do not be afraid. We will have more than enough leaders to take his place. We will have another Prime Minister, even within the same coalition partner. But this is not our concern today. Our challenge today is to support this vote of no confidence to change the leadership of the government.
Mr Speaker, I once again move that
the National Parliament of Solomon Islands hereby resolves it has no confidence
in the Prime Minister. May God Bless