Private Column by Transparency Solomon Islands
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Friday, 10 May 2013 9:50 AM

TRC: The Release Controversy

Much has been said, over the last week, about the decision of Bishop Terry Brown to ‘leak’ the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.

Because of the way the report has been released media, civil society and national commentators are unable to say anything about the report’s contents or recommendations.

Transparency Solomon Islands acknowledges that normally, public release of an official document before it is tabled in Parliament may be against the law.

However, we do believe that in some special circumstances such ‘leakage’ could be legally and morally sanctioned.

It’s worth noting that the Truth and Reconciliation Act (as amended) is silent on premature release of
the report and creates no offence for such acts.

Whether Bishop Brown’s action is a violation of the TRC Act or one that can be sanctioned should be left
to the courts.

Debate around his action, however, should not be allowed to mask the glaring fact that the Prime
Minister has failed his duty under the Act to table the final report in Parliament on receiving it last year.

Whilst the Act is silent on ‘leaking’ the report and therefore leaves that issue open for debate, the
obligation in the Act to table the report is express, clear and mandatory.

The Government must now officially release the report and begin to address its recommendations as soon as possible.

Recently, some commentators have called on the Prime Minister to call an immediate sitting of parliament to table the report.

TSI’s legal team has looked carefully at the Standing Orders of our National Parliament and concluded that the PM does not have the power to call an immediate meeting of Parliament to table the report.

At its last sitting, Parliament resolved to adjourn its 4th meeting to July 25th by special adjournment.

That resolution stands today and the PM has no power to substitute a different date. His power is confined to calling a new meeting only.

The government must make the TRC report the first order of business in the next sitting so that we, as a
community, can begin to absorb this important report and continue the process of national healing.

It is also time for the Prime Minister to explain more clearly his reasons for not releasing the report when it was handed to him.

Under the Act, the Prime Minister has no express discretion to delay the release of the report.

Section 17 (1) of the act reads as follows:

‘The Prime Minister on receiving the report of the Commission, shall cause it to be laid before Parliament and the report be made available to the public’

As the Opposition Leader, Hon. Derek Sikua said in Parliament, “You receive the report, you lay it before
Parliament, let Parliament deal with it.”

That has clearly not happened in this case with the Prime Minister saying in the first instance that the
report is too long and too sensitive to be released. Then, more recently, saying that the community was
not ready.

“There is no intention right now to edit or revise the report because the work produced by the TRC Commission is a work required by that particular Act of Parliament so bringing a version here that does
not reflect what is produced by the Commission will not reflect well on the government." The PM said
in parliament during the March sitting.

The Prime Minister is right. The government has absolutely no power to edit the report.

But the act certainly doesn't give the government any power to delay the report until it believes that
the ‘social situation’ is ready for the report to be released.

The TRC report should be released to the public as soon as possible.

What would you like the government to do about the TRC Report? Let us know by calling TSI on 28319, email media@transparencysi.org or get in touch via our facebook page www.facebook.com/
TransparencySI

To report corruption, bribery or the misuse of funds, call ALAC on 20391 or drop by our office on first
floor of the Stephen and Sons building in China Town, Honiara.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Transparency Solomon Islands and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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