Tuesday, 13 October 2009 7:11 AM

PEC's change of Chairmanship - What for?

Dear Editor,

Please allow me to comment on the recent move by the government to replace the former Chairman of PEC with a new one.

When I saw this news item the question that comes to mind is; what on earth is the government planning to achieve with the change of PEC leadership? Are they trying to penalize the former PEC Chairman for the decisions made in relation to the PER 2009 and show to the public that the blame is on the him, or is it that the former PEC Chairman has spoken out in the media and have revealed too much; much more than he should have said at least in perspective of the government?

Since I could not find a much better possible reason, I personally believe that the former is the more likely scenario for such a move as the government is trying to save its face at the eleventh hour. I recalled the statement by the Prime Minister when he announced that they (government) are taking the PEC to court because the Chairman (now former) has refused to take heed of government's advice to revoke the PER 2009, specifically the controversial $50 000 spousal grant. But what role does the government have in trying to influence the PEC when it has already made its decision? The government has no authority to call for the PEC to change a decision it has already made and has been passed through the Attorney-General's Office for eventual gazeting.

Be reminded that after the decision was made by PEC on PER 2009, it was processed through the government's 'screening process' and even the Attorney-General, as the chief legal advisor of the government has had the chance to provide appropriate legal advice to the government and PEC before the decisions were made to become legally binding and enforceable. The irony is that it is the Attorney-General, on behalf of the government, that is taking the PEC to court for the decisions it (PEC) has made on behalf of the Members of Parliament. And to an extent, it seems that the government or the Prime Minister for that matter is pre-empting the decision of the courts on the matter by demonstrating that the PEC has made a wrong decision and as the person responsible, the Chairman is now removed.

However, putting legality question aside, I find the move by the government to replace the PEC Chairman as very childish and a shallow attempt to shift the blame from itself and save its face. We all know that the Chairman is only part of a group of people (Commission) and that the decisions he endorses as Chairman of that group (Commission) are not his own but that of the whole. And we all know too that as logic would tell us, the only source from which the various submissions received by the Commission originated from are the Members of Parliament themselves. So effectively the Prime Minister has fired the Chairman because he has endorsed their (Member's of Parliament's) wishes (submissions) for increases to their entitlements. The Chairman was acting on behalf of the Members of Parliament (including the Prime Minister) and now that public has disagreed with the decision he (former Chairman) made for them (MPs), he is the one to be fired and to take the whole blame. Isn't that hypocritical?

Yes, that's the simple fact; he (the Chairman) has been fired because he has endorsed the submissions to increase the MP's entitlements which were submitted by the MP's themselves. It was fortunate that the media and the public have taken notice and have spoken out putting pressure on the government to revisit the PEC/PER matter. But what if it has been the other way round? Consider this scenario for the Chairman: what would have happened if he had refused to endorse the submissions at the first instance when they were before the PEC and decided not to approve the PER increases? I guess he would have suffered the same fate as he does now and got himself fired because the Members of Parliament would not be too keen to have a PEC Chairman who does listen to their wishes.

So to me the problem and source of controversy are Members of Parliament themselves and not the Chairman of PEC or the PEC itself. The former PEC Chairman is a victim of dirty miscalculated political games by the Members themselves and changing the PEC Chairmanship (with due respect to the current PEC Chair) will make no difference to the 'gravitational' influence politicians have over the PEC. In fact it might even be worse because now they have set a very bad precedence that as Chairman of PEC one must be subjected to government (Members of Parliament's) directives and influence, and if one fails, you will face the axe even if it means being morally correct in speaking out and putting facts right.

To me, the move by the government is out of frustration and desperation to enable them to continue to loosely grip to power and regain public support and confidence, especially in the light of the upcoming judgment day (general elections). I doubt the move will remedy the current public distrust on the government at all but will only raise more questions than answers. The simple fact is that the truth is known that it is all part of a dirty game of political maneuvering and even a simple man along the street will be able to figure it out.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Derick R Manu'ari and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

Other Letters to the Editor All Letters
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province
By JAQUE FRIEDMAN New Zealand