The Leader of Opposition, Hon. Matthew Wale urges the PM to embrace criticism of government decisions made under the state of emergency powers and not to resort to threats or intimidation to silence critics.
The call was made in response to the PM’s speeches delivered on 20th and 22nd May, 2020, wherein the PM warned Members of Parliament, Provincial governments and other leaders and critics not to politicise state of emergency issues. The PM used the sacrifices made by front liners as the pretext for people accepting the restriction of some of their rights and freedoms.
“All Solomon Islanders appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of frontline workers, but that this cannot be grounds for barring criticism of government decisions and actions where such is constructive. Not when we are in a preparedness state.”
“Members of the public accept that in the coronavirus pandemic affecting the world, it is reasonable that their freedoms of expression and movement may be curtailed under emergency powers. This however cannot be taken as basis to exploit the emergency situation to monopolise power and stifle democratic voices,” says Hon. Wale.
He says the emergency powers are not absolute and are confined to the threat posed by the Covid-19.
“Therefore we must guard against the weaknesses in human nature when exercising power with little supervision.”
“The PM must understand that he is dealing with a very delicate trade-off. The acceptance of the state of emergency and associated restrictions by the people is an equally big sacrifice on their part. This sacrifice too must not be overlooked.”
“When government action appears to undermine the people’s sincerity and endorsement, it raises the question of whether government action is reasonable and justifiable. The recent lockdown for example may be viewed by some people as an exercise to show off police power, and to see how many people broke the SOE laws rather than, an exercise to identify gap areas in our systems (health, food security, water supply, etc) that should be addressed in our preparedness plans.”
“The PM therefore must learn to embrace criticism as essential to good democratic governance and resist any inclinations towards authoritarian tendencies.”
“It seems the PM is fearful of alternative voices and opinions on our preparedness plans, and other governance issues. It is clear, he made the threat directly to my office, the Premier of Malaita Province and other leaders and citizens that have raised issues on governance related matters and our preparedness plans. There is no need for this.”
“I therefore call on the PM to accept criticism and use it instead to improve our preparedness plans. After all, we want all outstanding issues adequately addressed so that we are ready for any potential outbreak of the virus.”