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Solomon Islands Prime Minister Supports Raft On Tax-Free Salary For Parliamentarians

The people of Solomon Islands are planning to show their anger in a protest by wearing red shirts in the capital of Honiara, and other major townships.

This follows after the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, pledged his support in a raft that supported a tax-free salary for members of the parliament.

The raft, which also supports an extra 4% increase of salary $500,000 ($AUS81,830) in unrestricted funds and new pension entitlements, was announced by the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) earlier this month.

The Prime Minister responded to the public outburst by telling the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation that the parliamentarians are always spending money on large number of people living in their houses:

“…please go to the house of a member of parliament and you will just see for yourself how many people these MPs are feeding every day”.

He claimed that it was not an exaggeration for a member of parliament to feed up to fifty people every day, and that people who oppose the idea are living in an imaginary world.

“People who are pushing that kind of thinking Mr Speaker in Solomon Islands are living in an imaginary world … because it is very easy for people who live a sheltered life to push such a thing; making issues out of it in the media.”

Pitch Lodge, the organiser of the protest, told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat that it will be a peaceful protest, and it is mainly to show the peoples disagreement with the parliament’s decision.

The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and MP for Small Malaita, Rick Hou, has called on Mr Sogavare for a review of the proposed bill, stating that he would rather refuse his share.

“The tax-free entitlement is totally unacceptable. If the rest of the Solomon Islands are taxed then I don’t see any reason why members of parliament should not,” said Mr Hou.

Sir Paul Tovua, a former speaker of parliament and MP, also claimed that a tax-free salary for MPs is not in the best interest of the Solomon Islands people.

“The PEC decision was made in isolation of any consultations whatsoever with the public or even within the government circles, to me, not only legally but a matter of principle, we have a responsibility to pay taxes that is part and parcel of meeting service deliveries in this country. Sir Tovua said.

“And it is not fair that one group of people in this country, one elite group I might add, is to be giving themselves a tax free in this instance,” he added.  

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