Civil society in Solomon Islands concerned about limitations in Anti-Corruption Bill


NGO questions clause in Anti-Corruption Bill

Civil society group, Transparency International has raised concerns about the long awaited Anti-Corruption Bill which is currently before parliament. Transparency International executive officer Ruth Liloqula, on 25th July 2018, said while the proposed law is an important step in the fight against corruption, clause six of the Anti-Corruption Bill limits the powers of any investigation to cases that occur only after the bill is enacted. She said:

"The fact that [the limitation clause] is in portrays to the public that legislators have something to hide and that they are protecting themselves from being investigated. This is the interpretation for the public."

The Anti-Corruption Bill 2017 had already passed its first reading but its progress through the House has stalled and it has proven politically divisive despite widespread public support.

A Whistleblower Protection Bill has also been tabled in the Solomon Islands parliament on 23rd July 2018. The bill aims to protect people who come forward with information on corruption. It also covers people who report misconduct and maladministration.

Residents protest ongoing sewerage spills

On 26th June 2018, residents in the Homevale surburb of Honiara, capital of Solomon Islands raised concerns about their rights to adequate sanitation services which they believed were being deprived by the Sol Plaatje Municipality. Complaints to the municipality about the plague of sewerage spills into yards, compounds and streets have largely fallen on deaf ears. The ongoing environmental degradation has affected the health of residents particularly, children.

Some of the residents have taken to the media to express their concerns over the rivulets of raw sewage which the authorities largely ignore. One of the residents, Hazel Topuz, says that for the past three years the stench of raw sewage has made her life unbearable and believes the reason behind her granddaughter’s declined health can be linked to the free-flowing effluent water and pollution in the area. Other neighbours have expressed similar sentiments to the media.

Adam Suliman who has been living in Homevale for more than 30 years said:

“They come and unblock it but when you walk pass on a Sunday it’s running again and this is not a solution. They must upgrade the sewage system because the sewage spills into the yards and the houses and even into the streets and it is a health risk. The children keep getting sick and it even affects my health also.”
After protests, miner loses bauxite licence

As previously documented by the CIVICUS Monitor, there have been longstanding protests in Lata, Temotu province against establishing a bauxite mining operation on Santa Cruz Island. According to reports, the company had "coerced, bullied and tricked communities into signing over prospecting rights to their land". Some landowners were reportedly not told about the environmental impact of mining, and others claimed they were coerced into signing blank pieces of paper, or allegedly had their signatures forged.

On 30th May 2018, the company had its exploration licence rescinded. According to reports, the company was notified by the Mining Minister, Bradley Tovosia that their prospecting to date has been unsatisfactory. The minister went on to say that the company had failed to establish amicable relations with the local communities in Nende - something that is required under the agreement.

Peaceful assembly

West Papua flag confiscated from protester

Solomon Islands police confiscated a West Papuan flag at the Melanesian Arts Festival on 9th July 2018 to stop any provocation aimed at the Indonesian delegation. Ben Didiomea had his flag taken by police after he held it up in front of Indonesia's festival stall to protest its inclusion at the event.

Didiomea said he had been standing in solidarity with fellow Melanesian people of Indonesia's West Papua region, where the Morning Star is banned. Didiomea, who along with two other demonstrators was questioned by police, said the inclusion of Indonesia at the Arts Festival was a political move by the Solomons government.

The previous Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare had campaigned internationally about human rights issues in West Papua. He was also supportive of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), a pro-independence political movement. However, current prime minister Rick Hou has been notably less vocal about West Papua human rights issues.


Women activist recognized for her work

On 4th July 2018 Solomon Islander Emma Garo was awarded the 2018 Women of Courage Award. Garo was recently appointed Chief Magistrate of the Solomon Islands Magistrates Court and is the first female to hold that post. In that position she is reportedly making major reforms at the court, including arranging for judges to travel to the provinces to hear legal cases.

Established in 2007, the prestigious Woman of Courage Award by the US Secretary of State, honors women who have risked their lives and well-being to exemplify exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress. It has honored women who stood up for justice, human rights, constitutional reform, and the rule of law, disregarding any personal or professional risk.