Pacific / Solomon Islands

Legality of Solomons Covid-19 lockdown questioned

16:07 pm on 27 August 2021

The leader of the parliamentary opposition in Solomon Islands is calling for the postponement of a Covid-19 lockdown in the capital saying it may be unconstitutional.

Matthew Wale is the Leader of Opposition in Solomon Islands. Photo: Office of the Leader of Opposition

On Friday last week the government announced that due to the surge of the deadly delta variant of Covid-19 a 36-hour-lockdown would be initiated from 6pm this Sunday (29 August) in Honiara, in order to test and sharpen the country's Covid-19 preparation and response plans.

It said anyone found breaching the lockdown rules would be arrested and prosecuted.

But the opposition leader Matthew Wale said this may be unconstitutional given the country has been Covid-free for months.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Solomons has reported only 20 confirmed cases of the virus - all in managed isolation, and most cases involved repatriated citizens.

"It is important to prepare our people for the worst-case scenario through practice however, it cannot come at the expense of openly violating our people's fundamental rights under the Constitution," Wale said.

Wale's comments echo that of a former Solomon Islands governor general and judge Sir Frank Kabui also spoke out on the issue.

Sir Frank Kabui said in the absence of Covid 19 in Honiara posing a real threat to the public, the arrest or prosecution of any person caught breaching an order under the Emergency Regulations will lack jurisdiction in law.

According to Wale, it is a serious legal issue of public interest.

"I therefore call on the Prime Minister and the Oversight Committee to call off the planned lock down and to take the matter to court for an independent ruling on all legal questions arising," he said.

The Solomon Islands government has been approached for comment.