Time to put thorny issues to rest

The National, Friday July 15th, 2016

PARLIAMENT meets today at 2pm as directed by the Supreme Court to deliberate and vote on the Opposition’s motion of no confidence.
The court deemed it a matter of national importance and on Tuesday ordered the Speaker to recall Parliament to convene within five days.
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika and Justice Colin Makail, in a unanimous decision, granted the application by Opposition Leader Don Polye ruling that Parliament had breached certain sections of the Constitution.
The court ordered that the motion be placed “as the first item of business of Parliament on the first day of the sitting”.
The judges pointed out that because of the adjournment of Parliament to August 2, “the motion would become ineffective because by July 27, the time limited for bringing a motion of no confidence in the prime minister under Section 145 (2)(b) of the Constitution will have expired”.
While the court has directed the motion to be the first item of business, it will still be subjected to due process of Parliament and the standing orders.
Notice is yet to be formally introduced in Parliament and for it to be placed on the notice paper. When that happens there has to be a compulsory seven-day period before the vote can be taken.
Unless standing orders can be suspended on a motion from the leader of government business so as to move the motion forthwith all these might actually take the motion into the grace period referred to by the high court which would then void itself.
At the same time Parliament is presented with an ideal opportunity to deal with the Government’s move to invoke the Internal Security Act and the Essential Services Act to curtail public disturbances such as the student unrest.
Critics see it as derogatory and draconian act by the O’Neill Government to curtail inalienable rights and freedoms granted by the Constitution.
While that may be so, we must also ask what unrest and protests in the country have achieved over the years.
Time and again protests lead to destruction of properties, loss of lives and lost opportunities. Oftentimes what might have begun as a genuine issue is twisted by opportunists and people with vested interest for their own benefits.
A case in point is the Anti-Asian businesses riots of May 2009 when a peaceful protest march to City Hall turned into a nationwide rampage.
Two student protest marches have led to loss of innocent lives and many students lost golden opportunities to tertiary education.
To our mind, we are a country of the majority illiterate and a minority educated.
Since we have a fully fletched democracy, this means that the illiterate are able to out-vote and out-number the minority.
You give this majority free reign and you are inviting chaos.
Early in the piece we could have provided for some guided democracy elements.
We would have been better for it because a majority that lacks how to live and behave in of a just and equal society; where tribalism and ethnicity rules are most dangerous.
We are not yet ready for the total freedom that we gave to ourselves in the National Constitution.
It is a reality that the principles of government adopted at independence are based on the English Westminster system and the egalitarian society dreamt of was more western than Melanesian.
We have struggled so long to come to an understanding because we have adopted something that is not in our DNA.
Look at countries like China and Malaysia which sought early in the piece to direct its people more closely and more forcefully towards development goals. As more and more of their people became educated and able to take part in national life, the rules were relaxed.
Today they are growing in leaps and bounds.
That said, it must be mentioned that it is high time the Government takes a serious look at disciplinary issues within the entire security forces structure in the country, particularly that of the police force.
If we are to invoke legislation to give more power to the security forces, then we must be absolutely sure that they do not abuse their powers as has happened time and again.