The Leader of Opposition, Hon. Matthew Wale calls on the government not to extend the state of emergency period.
The call was made in response to the Prime Minister’s recent statement, revealing the government’s intensions to extend the emergency period because it is the reason why Solomon Islands is still Covid-19 free.
Hon. Wale points out that, “Our people have of course, accepted the need to invoke the state of emergency then because it was necessary and reasonable given the prevailing circumstances. The circumstances then were; infected people were dying around the world and Solomon Islands was ill prepared to deal with any outbreak. The swift declaration of the state of emergency therefore was welcomed by the people, for it safeguarded their health and safety”.
He says the situation however has changed, and we now have a preparedness plan with financial backing secured, isolation and detention centres in high risk zones, PPE and test machines here, trained front liners and the public are now more aware of the disease than before.
“At the same time too, the health pandemic and our internal restrictive measures (including state of emergency) had also negatively impacted our economy and our people’s livelihoods. The majority of our people who rely on the informal sector quickly lost their little means of earnings, and are now face with uncertain futures.
“By the government’s own admission, the economy will continue to shrink and revenue will decline in the near future. This can only mean, less money and resources to enable ongoing provision of much needed services to our people in the days and months to come.
“With the obvious corrupt and malpractice endemic in some of our public institutions, the risk for this evil to quietly eat away the limited funds and resources earmarked to cushion our preparedness plans and ailing economy to the detriment of our people, is also a serious concern,” says Hon. Wale.
The Opposition Leader went on to add that, “These problems are now, add-ons to the health threats posed by Covid-19, the basis of the initial public endorsement of the state of emergency, and if not handled properly, can easily trigger counter-productive attitude that can derail our preparedness plans”.
He further adds that the government must know, these changes now raise questions on affordability, justifiability and the reasonableness of any extension of the emergency period.
“The government must accept that solutions for some of these fresh concerns can be found in keeping the economy totally functional. The stimulus package is not adequate for this purpose.
“By and large, our success in keeping the virus off our shores was due to our promptness in imposing restrictions on incoming flights and other high risk border areas. These measures will now be complemented by the proper equipment, infrastructure, knowledge and future lockdown plans now at our disposal.
“The government must now take advantage of these improvements and look to streamlining its plans to only target areas really pertinent and necessary to keep Covid-19 out. These things can be done without a state of emergency and at less cost.
“Also, our Constitution allows the government to enact or amend laws to restrict fundamental rights in normal situations. The Environment Health Act and it’s regulations for example already provide a legal framework that mirrors the SOE as far as legal systems specific to diseases such as viruses are concerned. I am sure with a few amendments here and there, all necessary powers, functions and responsibilities under the SOE can be safely couched under these laws in a normal situation.
“These are existing legal systems that had been time tested, and already have in-built safeguards for the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance. Again, this is where the government should be looking; not at the emergency laws only,” the Opposition Leader added.
Hon. Wale therefore calls on the government not to consider extending the emergency period. “We have done well thus far; let us now focus our efforts against Covid-19 at border control, and totally open our domestic economy to stimulate consumption demand, food security and internal tourism and transport”.