Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Casino Owner to Deputy Speaker of Parliament

In another somewhat unexpected twist of events in Solomon Islands politics, Namson Tran has been voted as the Deputy Speaker of National Parliament of Solomon Islands.

Namson, MP for West Honiara defeated former Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua by 26: 23 votes. This vote division reflects the current  number balance between the government and the Opposition.

Namson is a naturalised Solomon Islander of Vietnamese heritage. A private businessman, he is the owner of the first ever casino to be established in Solomon Islands, the Honiara Casino.

In the recent election Namson defeated former MP, Isaac Inoke through votes drawn from a controversial voting list, an issue which the High Court has substantiated but has fallen short of rectifying.

The media has reported that Inoke is currently undertaking proceedings to challenge the election results, petitioning Solomon Islands Electoral Commission. A court ruling in favour of Inoke will certainly have direct implications on  Namson's current status as MP as well as being the Deputy Speaker.

In receiving Mr. Namson's successful election as Deputy Speaker of Parliament, I will be frank by saying that obviously the vote was made based primarily on political grounds. No consideration have been given to the very demanding responsibilities that position of Deputy Speaker exerts.

On that basis, I will say that Namson has a very high and steep mountain to climb.

As the Deputy Speaker he is expected to preside over the proceedings of Parliament in the absence of the Speaker, as specified under section 65 of the Constitution. Thus, he is required to be well-versed with the Standing Orders of National Parliament, a document of parliamentary procedure that even many long-term MPs are still not totally familiar with.

He will be assissted in his work by the Parliamentary Secretariat. But that is only on procedural matters that require  Deputy Speaker to make a ruling, statement, announcement and so forth. In other words, the Parliamentary Secretariat can only assisst the Deputy Speaker or even the Speaker on matters that are predictable and pre-emptive. Most of the time it is his own instinct, reasoning and understanding of the Standing Orders that he has to bank on to make procedural rulings that would determine the manner in which MPs debate and behave in Parliament.

His professional demeanour as head of the House would  therefore partly determine the quality of  debate and discussion parliamentarians would have in the Chamber.

The way I see it, our parliamentarians are going one step forward and two steps back in their rational reasoning and decision making as indicated by this particular election result.

No offence, but I am saying it as I see it!

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