Monday, 10 December 2007 8:33 AM

Government Proposes Date for Parliament Meeting

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has announced that the next meeting of Parliament will convene Monday, 24th December, 2007.

"... Parliament must meet to consider the explanation from the new Minister of Finance and Treasury for the delayed presentation of the budgetary estimates for next year, and pass the necessary resolution to authorise the issue of money from the Consolidated Fund to meet expenditure at the current level until the new Appropriation Act is passed next year," Mr. Sogavare said.

He said that the Cabinet's advice will be relayed to the Governor General today.

The Prime Minister said he "expected His Excellency to act in accordance with that advice to change the date to enable Parliament to meet for the transaction of Government business under Sections 102(1) and 103(1) of our Constitution".

"As I have stated time and again, we are a responsible and popular Government. We have not breached any constitutional requirements until now and have no intention to subvert the laws we have undertaken to uphold," Mr. Sogavare said.

"Following the removal of Honourable Gordon Darcy Lilo from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, both former Finance Minister, Francis Zama, and current Finance Minister, Peter Boyers, have discovered too many anomalies and discrepancies in the way the 2008 budget was being prepared for scrutiny and approval by Parliament. The people of Solomon Islands deserve to know all the reasons why the budget was not ready a month ago and when it will finally be presented."

Prime Minister Sogavare pointed out that "under our Constitution, it is the Minister of Finance, and no one else, who has the right and duty to present the Government's budget for next year, and to seek parliamentary condonation for its delay by empowering him to authorise expenditure at the current levels until the new Appropriation Act is passed".

"I am pleased to tell the nation that our Grand Coalition for Change Government continues to command the solid support pledged by 25 out 48 Members of Parliament. With that absolute majority of votes pledged in our favour, there will not be a quorum for the parliamentary meeting, which the Governor General has unilaterally convened by issuing his Proclamation," the Prime Minister stated.

Mr. Sogavare said the purpose of the meeting convened by that Proclamation was to allow Government to seek the necessary resolution from Parliament under Section 103(1) of the Constitution.

"That resolution is monetary in nature and can only be passed when moved by the Minister of Finance," he said.

"The Opposition has no constitutional role to play in that exercise except to demonstrate their capacity to function as 'responsible leaders' in cooperating with Government to ensure that the resolution is passed in the national interest. They would expect the same from us if our roles were reversed," Mr. Sogavare said.

Mr. Sogavare added that Cabinet is imploring the Governor General to follow their collective advice and postpone the meeting of Parliament till December 24th.

He said this will enable the Minister of Finance to provide a comprehensive report to Parliament on the state of the nation's finances and indicate the exact date when next year's budget will be ready for presentation.

"The reality of the situation is that the meeting is purposely being convened to transact Government business. That can only be done when the new Minister of Finance says Government is ready, willing and able to do what the Constitution requires."

Mr. Sogavare said that the outcome of the case currently being heard in the High Court has no bearing on Cabinet's selection of the new date of the next Parliament meeting, except to clarify the constitutional requirements to accord with the principles of executive responsibility enshrined in our Constitution.

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