Wednesday, 28 November 2007 5:12 PM

Solomons AG Files Suit in High Court

The Attorney General, Mr. Julian Moti QC, has filed a suit in the High Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Governor General's proclamation last Friday, the 13th of December as the next meeting of the National Parliament.

He said that the Originating Summons was filed on Monday and the principal parties to the action are the Prime Minister as Plaintiff and the Governor General as First Defendant.

"There's nothing unusual in naming the Governor General as a respondent when he is not immune from suit for his executive actions under our Constitution," said Mr. Moti.

He said that His Excellency has no reason to be 'perturbed' about anything.

"His Excellency has no reason to be 'perturbed', and the previous Prime Ministers have sued previous Governor Generals in the country so there's clear precedent for what I am doing, I am not mad," added Mr. Moti.

He stated that the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Independent Members have also joined as Second and Third Decedents, respectively, "because they have an obvious interest in the outcome of the case and be heard as well".

Mr. Moti said that all three defendants were served yesterday, "as soon as they enter their appearances, we will request the Registrar to list the matter for an urgent hearing".

The Attorney-General explained that the action sought judicial clarification and resolution of two constitutional issues arising from the Governor General's recent intervention into his political process.

According to Moti, until those questions are conclusively settled by the judiciary, the same problems will surface again and again to threaten and undermine the practical operation of our constitutionally-established principles of executive responsibility.

"Now is a politically opportune time for the judiciary to determine them once and for all," Mr. Moti added.

The first question deals with the legal status of the Standing Orders which were adapted by the National Parliament in 1982 under Section 62 of the Constitution.

The Attorney General argued that the Section 62 stated very clearly that the Standing Orders are made 'subject to the Constitution'.

Moreover, Mr. Moti said that Section 2 of the Constitution emphatically provides that their Constitution is 'the supreme law of Solomon Islands' and overrides any laws that are inconsistent with it.

He said that the Standing Orders 7 (3), to the extent that it purports to authorize the Governor General to change the date of any meeting of Parliament 'after consultation with the Prime Minister', appears inconsistent with the requirement in Section 31 (1).

Mr. Moti stressed that the Governor General must always 'act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet', or a Minister authorized by the Cabinet, "and that is the essence of our contention with the GG's recent actions".

He said that the second question addresses the legality if the Proclamation, which was issued by the Governor General allegedly without any effective consultation between him and the Prime Minister, on the choice of December 13th as the appointed date for the next meeting.

"Whether such matters should be dedicated by the GG upon advice or after consultation with the Prime Minister, and what precisely is involved in the consultation process to dispel its 'token' practice must now be judicially determined for posterity and the better consultation governance of this nation," said Mr. Moti.

He referred judicial guidance on these vexed matters of constitutional significance as the foundation for disciplined restraint on the exercise of executive power.

In response to the proposed application by the Leader of the Official Opposition's lawyer, Gabriel Suri, to derail these proceedings, Mr. Moti "hoped that Mr. Suri would reconsider his tact".

The Attorney General pointed out that Section 31(3) only ousts the jurisdiction of courts to inquire into the Governor General's actions when the Constitution requires him to act on advice or after consultation.

"We are challenging the Governor General's failure to do that under the Standing Orders and not the Constitution. That is the gist of our action and the reason why Mr Suri might want to review his advice and proposed application," Mr. Moti added.

The Attorney General says he will refrain from further commentary on the case until it is heard and decided by the High Court.