Saitala: ‘Ordinary resident’ a contentious issue for Solomon Islands election law

Voters registering in the Solomon Is. Picture: RNZ

HONIARA, 07 SEPTEMBER 2018 (SOLOMON STAR) – Movement of voters in Solomon Islands from one constituency to another will remain an election issue due to the broad definition of the term “ordinary resident”.

That’s according to Chief Electoral Officer Mose Saitala.

Saitala explained that to register and vote in a constituency is defined by being an ordinary resident.

However, he said under the new Electoral Act, ordinary resident is defined along the following criteria:

1. You had to have some history or genealogical connection to a place, family or tribe within a constituency.

2. Reside in that constituency for more than six months.

3. Work or owned some properties within that constituency.

4. You must indigenously connect to the place you want to vote.

“So you see, the definition of ordinary resident is too broad.

“Meaning, people can still move from one constituency to another to vote, as long as they are eligible under the criteria stated above,” Saitala said.

Already, the matter has become an issue since the voter registration process started Monday this week.

The Solomon Star has observed certain individuals going around the registration centers in Honiara to dispute people who turned up to register to vote in certain constituencies.

Some have argued at the registration centres and stopped others from registering by denying them of being ordinary residents of certain constituencies.

The Solomon Star also witnessed groups of men monitoring the queues at the registration booth, and questioning people of their eligibilities to register in a constituency.

Saitala pointed out that due to the broad definition of ordinary resident, it made it easy for voters to register in another constituency, as long as they are qualified under the stated criteria.

He said people can still register and vote in a constituency if they meet the criteria of ordinary resident.

But he said there is a time period for objections, which anyone can object the names of people that appeared in the list to vote in a constituency.

Saitala said the updated list of voters will be published after the registration so anyone who objects the names on the list of voters for a particular constituency are asked to visit the Electoral Commission on a date to be set.

“The objectors must inform the Commission why, what and how they object the names and those whose names were objected will be given the chance to explain their side as well to the Commission.

“If the objectors failed to turn up to give reasons for disputing the names of the voters that appeared on the list, the Commission will not consider their objections.”

Meanwhile, Police say they are monitoring the registration of voters, which started Monday this week throughout the country.

RSIPF Supervising Deputy Commissioner (DC) Operation, Joseph Manelugu says his officers in Honiara and throughout the provinces are monitoring the registration process as part of their normal duties with people travelling to their registration centres scattered throughout the communities.

“The role of the police is to provide a safe, secure and peaceful environment to allow people to register their names to vote in next year’s National Elections,” Manelugu said.

“Any complaints about the registration process should be directed to the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission,” he added.

“Police officers will do regular patrols to the registration venues to ensure law and order is maintained.

“Unfortunately we are not able to be deployed to some of our most remote communities but if any situation arise police will respond accordingly.

“I appeal to the law abiding citizens across the country including visitors to refrain from unlawful acts and respect authorities during the period of registration of voters, the campaign period, the actual election, the counting of votes and declaration of the winning candidates.”

More Stories