Archive for February, 2010

People’s Survey 2009 – education in Solomons

February 28, 2010

It is hard to find current, good quality data in Solomons so we should be grateful for the wealth of annual data published in the People’s Survey.

This post, which will hopefully be the first of a series of blogs on the People’s Survey 2009, focuses on education levels in Solomons. My reading of the data is that there is some modest good news.

1. Young are better educated than their parents

The first good news story is that young people are receiving more education than their parents did (Table 1). According to the Survey, those aged less than 30 have completed an average of 7.9 years at school whereas those aged 30 or more have an average of 6.4 years – a gap of 1.5 years.

Table 1: Average years of education by age and gender


Note: author’s calculations based on Tables 1.2 and 1.5 of the Survey.

This conclusion is supported by related data on the number of people who have completed primary, secondary or post-secondary education (Table 2). This data was divided into two age groups:

  • “Youths”: all interviewees aged less than 25 years PLUS unmarried interviewees aged 25-29 years.
  • “Adults”: all interviewees aged 30+ years PLUS married interviewees aged 25-29 years.

Consistent with the previous data, more than three-in-five youths (61.5%) reported that they had completed secondary school or better. By contrast, only 35% of “adults” had had the same opportunity.

Table 2: Highest level of education achieved by age


Note: author’s calculations based on Table 1.4 of the Survey.

2. Education gender gap seems to be narrowing

The second piece of good news is that the gap between men and women appears to be narrowing (Table 1 again). For men and women aged less than 30, the gap in average years of schooling is 0.9 years. For their older counterparts, the gap is 1.6 years. Again, this is supported by the data on the highest level of education achieved (data not shown here – see Table 1.4 of the Survey).

3. Provinces: education levels vary considerably

The third point to note is that there are some surprising differences between the provinces (Table 3). Malaita, Guadalcanal and Choiseul appeared to have lower education levels on average. In Malaita, 15.9% of interviewees said they had never attended school (compared to a national average of 8.0%). And primary school was the highest education level for most interviewees in Guadalcanal (57.5%) and Choiseul (56.1%). By contrast, Isabel (67.4%) and Temotu (65.1%) both had high levels of secondary and post-secondary education compared to the national average (52.3%).

Table 3: Highest level of education achieved by age


Note: author’s calculations based on Table 1.4 of the Survey.

Technical Notes and Data

The People’s Survey 2009 reports the results of 5,035 interviews conducted in 7 provinces. More details on the survey techniques used and the demographic characteristics of the interview subjects are set out in pp.9-14 and 76-81.

The figures reported in this post are my own calculations based on the data reported in Tables 1.2, 1.4 and 1.5. These tables summarise the answers to question 1(e) of the Survey. The data and calculations are available here.

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By-elections in Solomon Islands

February 28, 2010

I thought it would be interesting to review past by-elections in Solomons in the wake of Friday’s High Court decision regarding the by-election in Savo and Russells in October last year (see previous post).

Note (15/05/10): I have made some minor revisions to the data discussed in this post. The updates are available here.

The last two Parliaments have seen an unusually large number of vacancies and by-elections. Indeed, of the 28 vacancies that I am aware of since self-government, 12 of them (over 40%) have occurred in the last two terms (see table below).

The main reasons for these by-elections and vacancies were that the incumbent had resigned, died or received a jail sentence of six months or more (and thus had to vacate their seats under Section 51 of the Constitution). Between 1973 and 2010, there were at least:

  • eight resignations (including two cases where the incumbent was appointed Speaker or Governor General),
  • seven deaths in office (including one assassination), and
  • six cases where an MP received a jail sentence of six months or more.

There were two instances where the outcome at a national election was successfully petitioned (Gao-Bugotu after the 2001 election and East Honiara after the 1993 election). There are three other cases where I have been unable to ascertain the reason for the by-election (can anyone help me here?).

I should also note that not all vacancies have resulted in by-elections – during the 2001-06 Parliament there were two seats (Small Malaita and West Kwara’ae) that became vacant but were not filled until the next election. It is possible that this may also have occurred in the seat of North Guadalcanal during the 1980-84 Parliament.

Why so many vacancies recently?

The main reason for the many vacancies in the last two parliaments is that six parliamentarians have received jail sentences of six months or more. As far as I am aware, no MP had been removed in this way before 2004. The other major reason is that there were four deaths in office.

This grim news has created plenty of work for the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission. Despite the significant problems with the by-election in Savo and Russells, it otherwise deserves credit for managing to successful conduct five other by-elections in 2008 and 2009. Hopefully this experience and the voter registration process that is currently underway will ensure that the Electoral Commission will be well prepared for the upcoming National Election.

Table: by-elections and vacancies, 1973-2010

The table below (and also available in a Word doc here) lists all the by-elections and vacancies that I’m aware of. If anyone has any corrections or additional details, I’d be glad to hear them.

Also, note that I have still recorded Allan Kemakeza as the “incoming member” for most recent by-election in Savo and Russells however I assume that this should be revised to “vacant” in the light of the High Court’s decision.

By-election bagarap?

February 27, 2010

The High Court has found that Allan Kemakeza was ineligible to stand in the by-election for Savo and Russells that was held on 29 October 2009.  Reports on the decision are available from the Solomon Star, Radio NZ and the Australia Network.

Kemakeza was forced to vacate his seat after he received a jail sentence of 18 months (of which 12 months was suspended). Kemakeza was convicted in November 2007 of ‘demanding with menace, intimidation and larceny’ after he had ordered former militants in 2002 to raid and seize vehicles belonging to Sol Law. Kemakeza was originally sentenced in December 2007 to five months imprisonment but on appeal, this was increased to 18 months, with two-thirds of the sentence suspended.

Kemakeza completed his prison sentence at the end of 2008, in time to celebrate new year’s eve, but presumably he continued to serve his suspended sentence for the following year. My impression is that the High Court judged he was disqualified from standing in the October 2009 by-election because he was still serving this sentence at the time.

I haven’t read the judgment from Justice Edwin Goldsbrough of the High Court but I imagine that it is based on Section 49 of the Constitution which states that ‘No person shall be qualified for election as a member of Parliament who … is under a sentence of imprisonment for a term of, or exceeding, six months’. (The relevant provisions of Sections 49, 50 and 51 are reproduced below.)

Presumably Justice Goldsbrough concluded that a suspended sentence is still a sentence and therefore found that Kemakeza was disqualified. Of course, as the Solomon Star report points out, Kemakeza’s 12-month suspended sentence lapsed in December 2009 which means that he is eligible to contest the upcoming national elections.

Appendix:

As mentioned above, disqualification for election to Parliament is governed by Sections 49, 50 and 51 of the Constitution. Here are the relevant provisions:

Disqualifications from membership

49.-(1) No person shall be qualified for election as a member of Parliament who –

(e) is under sentence of death imposed on him by a court in any part of the world, or is under a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) for a term of, or exceeding, six months, other than a sentence in lieu of a fine, but including a suspended sentence, imposed on him by such a court or substituted by competent authority for some other sentence imposed on him by such a court;

Vacation of seats by members

50. A member of Parliament shall vacate his seat –

(f) if any circumstance arises that, if he were not a member of Parliament, would cause him to be disqualified from election thereto by virtue of paragraph (a), (b), (d), (f) or (g) of subsection (1) of the preceding section; or

(g) in the circumstances mentioned in the next following section.

Vacation of seat on sentence, etc.

51.-(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, if a member of Parliament is sentenced by a court in any part of the world to death or to imprisonment (by whatever name called) for a term of, or exceeding, six months, including a suspended sentence, he shall forthwith cease to perform his functions as a member of Parliament, and his seat in Parliament shall become vacant at the expiration of a period of thirty days thereafter:

Provided that the Speaker (or, if the office of Speaker is vacant or he is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his office, the Deputy Speaker) may, at the request of the member, from time to time extend that period for thirty days to enable the member to pursue any appeal in respect of his conviction or sentence so however that extensions of time exceeding in the aggregate one hundred and fifty days shall not be given without the approval of Parliament signified by resolution.

Prime Ministers of Solomon Islands

February 26, 2010

Election time is always a worrying time for sitting Prime Ministers. If the current PM, Dr Derek Sikua, looks to history for a guide to the future, he will find that it has both good and bad news.

The good news is that no sitting Prime Minister (or Chief Minister) has lost his seat. In fact, only nine people have served as PM and five of them are still in Parliament today. Of the others, Peter Kenilorea resigned from Parliament in 1991 to head up the Forum Fisheries Agency, Solomon Mamaloni and Bartholomew Ulufa’alu were both still MPs when they passed away (in 2000 and 2007, respectively). Only Ezekiel Alebua was eventually voted out – he was PM from 1986-89 and was defeated by the current member for East Guadalcanal, Johnson Koli, in the 1997 election.

The bad news is that although history suggests that the PM will retain his seat of North-East Guadalcanal, it also implies that he is unlikely to retain the top job. Only Peter Kenilorea has successfully retained the prime ministership after an election (in 1980). Since then, there have been six elections and each has resulted in a change of Prime Minister. Indeed, of the 13 changes of leader, seven were due to elections and four were due to motions of no confidence. The remaining two changes were due to the coup against Bart Ulufa’alu in June 2000 and Kenilorea’s resignation in December 1986 in response to allegations of misuse of rehabilitation funds in the wake of Cyclone Namu (in his recent autobiography (2008, pp.271-85), Kenilorea details the allegations and argues strenuously that there was no misconduct).

Table: Prime Ministers & Chief Ministers of Solomons, 1974-2010

* Mamaloni (1974-76) and Kenilorea (1976-78) served as Chief Minister.
Source: Kenilorea 2008, Tell it as it is, pp.489-90.

An average PM?

If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the historical pattern continues and Prime Minister Sikua is replaced after the election, he will have served for about 2.5 years. As it happens, this is almost exactly the average term of office for Prime Ministers (and Chief Ministers) since Solomon Mamaloni first became Chief Minister on 28 August 1974. To be precise, the average Prime Ministerial term is two years and seven months.

(Note that, for the purpose of this calculation, I have treated Kenilorea’s two periods of office from 1976-78 and 1978-81 as a single term from 1976-81 because the two terms are only separated by the announcement of Solomons independence, which is not relevant to how long leaders have held office.)

Chart: Prime Ministers & Chief Ministers of Solomons, 1974-2010

* The calculation of the ‘average term’ treats Kenilorea’s two periods of office from 1976-78 and 1978-81 as a single term.

The chart illustrates the domination of Solomons politics by the two leaders from the self-government period: Solomon Mamaloni and Peter Kenilorea. Mamaloni served four terms as leader for a total of almost 12 years whilst Peter Kenilorea served for more than seven years during his two terms in office. Together they have served more than half of the period since 1974. The next longest serving leader is Allan Kemakeza, who was the third leader to serve a full four-year term in office.

Although Kemakeza was the third leader to serve a full term in office, his government is often reported to have been the first to serve a full four-year term in office. Technically, this is correct, although I think that in the case of Kenilorea’s first government, this is largely a semantic point as he retained a very similar cabinet for the whole period from 1976 to 1980, notwithstanding the announcement of independence in the interim.

As for Mamaloni, although he remained PM for the entire period from 1989 to 1993, his People’s Alliance Party (PAP) government did not. In November 1990, he defected from the PAP, sacked five ministers, recruited five members of the opposition and formed the new Government for National Unity and Reconciliation (GNUR).

Not all PMs have fared as well as Mamaloni, Kenilorea and Kemakeza. The April 2006 riots ensured that Snyder Rini’s term was over in less than a fortnight and on three other occasions, the PM has served for less than 20 months (Billy Hilly, and Sogavare twice). It remains to be seen whether the leader(s) of the 9th Parliament replicate the success of Mamaloni, Kenilorea and Kemakeza or suffer the fate of Rini, Billy Hilly and Sogavare.

Note: the data used in this post is available here.

A larger Parliament – at what cost?

February 24, 2010

How much will it cost to expand the Solomons Islands Parliament from 50 to 67 seats? According to the Ministry of Finance, about $46.7 million per year (AUD6.5 million). I haven’t been able to find any details online to explain how this number was calculated but presumably it includes:

  • salaries and personal allowances (eg, housing, travel etc),
  • office space, equipment, stationary etc, and
  • the costs of allocating the Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) and similar funds to each the additional parliamentarian

The total 2010 budget was reportedly around $1.9 billion (AUD263 million), which means that these additional MPs would cost an extra 2.5% of the total budget. This is a significant amount at any time but particularly now, when the Government’s revenues have been affected by the global financial crisis and the Permanent Secretary of Finance has recently warned that the Government’s finances are tight.

In its February edition, Island Business magazine reported that the Government’s cash flow problems had delayed the release of funds for election preprarations. If this is still the case, it raises the question: with limited funds, what is the top priority for the Government and for Parliament – more seats or a well-prepared election?

In a previous post, I suggested that an increase of 17 seats might be appropriate, since that represented an increase that did not even keep up with population growth since the last increase in Parliament. On reflection, I’m not sure that’s a very good argument. We now have some idea of the costs of extra seats so the question now should be: what are the likely benefits?

It would be interesting to see what the Constitutional Boundaries Commission says but I haven’t been able to find a copy of its report online (can anyone help me here?). But no matter what it says, it will have to come up with a better argument than “keeping pace with population growth” to justify costs of around $46.7 million per year.

(Note: currency conversion from SI dollars to Australian dollars is based on today’s exchange rate – SBD1 buys AUD0.1383 – as reported on the Central Bank web site.)

Data – laws enacted by Solomons Parliament

February 16, 2010

In an earlier post, I commented on the large number of laws enacted in 2009 compared to the previous 10-15 years. At the time I published that post, I couldn’t figure out how to post tables, charts or the Excel spreadsheet that contained the data underpinning the post. I’ve figured it out now – the data is available here and the charts and tables are reproduced below.

(For the tech-wonks, I’ve managed to publish these charts and tables using the “Publish blog” feature in Word 2007. To be honest, this may be the first time I’ve ever felt grateful for a feature in MS Office 2007!)

The chart nicely illustrates my point. In the late 1980s, Parliament enacted around 16-17 laws each year. For most of the 1990s and 2000s, the average fell to just 9 laws per year. In this context, the 20 laws enacted last year certainly suggests that Parliament upped its work rate. Of course, this is a crude measure that is based purely on the quantity of laws, with no reference to quality.

Chart: laws enacted by the Solomon Islands Parliament, 1985-2009

Table 1: Laws enacted per year by the Solomon Islands Parliament (average)

Table 2: Laws enacted by the Solomon Islands Parliament, 1985-2009
(Election years are shaded)

Sources (sites accessed 08/02/10):

  1. Parliament web site (for 1985-1995 & 2008-09)
    http://www.parliament.gov.sb/index.php?q=node/13
  2. PacLII (for 1996-2007)
    http://www.paclii.org/sb/indices/legis/Acts_1996-.htm

Notes:

  1. A comparison of the two lists suggests that the Parliament web site is missing one Act in 1996 – the 1997 Appropriation Act 1996.
  2. A comparison of the two lists suggests that the Parliament web site is missing one Act in 1997 – Mamara-Tasivarongomavo Development Agreement Act 1997.
  3. A comparison of the two lists suggests that the Parliament web site is missing three Acts in 1999 – Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Act 1999, Honiara City Act 1999 and Forests Act 1999.
  4. The National Parliament Electoral Provisions (Amendment) Act 2001 was successfully challenged in the High Court prior to the 2001 election and was never enforced.

Solomons elections 2010 – Party of Five

February 15, 2010

Update (25/07/10): I now have a complete list of parties contesting the 2010 election here.

One certainty of the pre-election period in Solomons is that old parties will dust off their slogans and new parties will mushroom. By my count, five new parties have already been established this year, at a rate of almost one per week!

  • The Ownership, Unity and Responsibility (OUR) party, co-founded by former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and 7-8 other MPs from the Grand Coalition for Change Government (GCCG). This is at least the third party founded by Mr Sogavare following the People’s Progressive Party (established prior to the 2001 election) and the Social Credit (SoCred) Party (established prior to the 2006 election).
  • The Autonomous Solomon Islanders Party (ASIP),  co-founded by former politicians Jackson Sunaone (member for West Makira, 2000-01, elected at a by election held following the death of Solomon Mamaloni) and Denis Lulei (member for West Isabel, 1980-89 and for Maringe-Kokota, 1993-97). An earlier report in the Solomon Star (9/12/09) states that the ASIP executive also includes former member for Gao-Bugotu (2001-06) and minister in the Kemakeza government, Basil Manelegua.

This is a pretty impressive number considering that there are already seven parties nominally represented in Parliament, according to the Solomons Parliament web site).

To give some perspective, in a 2006 article, Sam Alasia reported that there were 16 parties contesting the 2006 elections, which was itself a big increase from the 10 and 9 in the previous two elections (Alasia 2006, “Rainbows across the mountains: the first post-RAMSI general election, p.122). For what it’s worth, I only counted 13 parties during the 2006 elections but I’ll readily defer to Sam on this one.

And while we’re keeping track, the seven parties listed on the Parliament web site are:

  • People’s Alliance Party (PAP, est. 1979)
    (prominent members: Allan Kemakeza, Fred Fono)
  • Association of Independent Members (AIM, est. c.2001)
    (prominent members: Snyder Rini, Tommy Chan)
  • Social Credit (SoCred) Party (est. 2006)
    (prominent members: Manasseh Sogavare)
  • Liberal Party (est. 1988)
    (prominent members: late Bart Ulufa’alu, Japhet Waipora, Milner Tozaka)
  • Democratic Party (est. 2006)
    (prominent members: Matthew Wale, Steve Abana)
  • Nasnol Pati (est. c.1997)
    (prominent members: Francis Billy Hilly)
  • Party for Rural Advancement (est. 2006)
    (prominent members: Job Dudley Tausinga, Gordon Darcy Lilo)

Solomons parliament – a high work rate

February 8, 2010

Prime Minister Sikua has announced that Parliament will resume sitting on 11 March, according to a Radio New Zealand report (08/02/10) which also states that six more Bills will be presented in the March sitting. This suggests that the Sikua-led CNURA (Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement) government plans to maintain its high work rate right until the very end, at least if you accept the number of laws enacted by Parliament as a crude work-rate measure.

In 2009, Parliament enacted 20 laws. According to the records on the Solomons Parliament web site and through PacLII (the Pacific Legal Information Institute), this tally has only been bettered once in 25 years (back in 1987, when 29 laws were enacted). During that time, there were, on average, around 12 laws enacted each year. However, since 1993, that average fell to 9 laws per year, including the mandatory annual appropriation bill. Thus, by recent standards, the CNURA government certainly kept its Parliament busy in 2009.

This is also reflected in the number of sitting days each year of the 8th Parliament, 2006-2010 (based on Hansard reports). In 2006, Parliament sat for just 19 days. In 2007, this increased to 35 days but under the CNURA government, the figure has increased again to 60 days (in 2008) and 66 days (in 2009). Perhaps there may even be a hint of relief amongst the honourable members of the Eighth when parliament is finally prorogued!

(Note: I have collated the data for this post in a short spreadsheet which is available on request. I would like to post it but haven’t yet figured out how to post tables or links to Excel spreadsheets.)

UPDATE (16/02/10): all the supporting data for this post is now available here.

Solomons elections 2010 – a tasty date?

February 7, 2010

Solomon Islands last held general elections almost four years ago, on the 5th of April 2006. Another election is due soon – to be more precise, it is due before 24 August 2010. This date can be deduced from sections 73 and 74 of the Constitution, which state:

Prorogation and dissolution

73.(3) Parliament, unless sooner dissolved …, shall continue for four years from the date of the first sitting of Parliament after any general election and shall then stand dissolved.

General elections

74. There shall be a general election at such time within four months of every dissolution of Parliament as the Governor-General shall appoint by proclamation published in the Gazette.

The first sitting of the 8th Parliament of Solomon Islands was held on 24 April 2006 (the earlier election of Snyder Rini the Prime Minister on 18 April, which precipitated the “April Riots”, does not constitute a sitting of Parliament). Therefore, Parliament will stand dissolved on 24 April 2010 and the general election shall be held within four months of that date.

I assume that the protocol is that the Governor-General chooses a date based on advice from the Prime Minister, Derek Sikua. If this is correct, it seems likely that the Prime Minister will wait for as long as possible, to maximise the chances that Parliament can reconsider, enact and then implement the Constitution (Political Parties Amendment) Bill 2009 and related legislation.

The Government decided to defer consideration of the Bill after it became clear that it would not achieve the necessary votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament on two separate readings in Parliament, as required under Section 61(3) of the Constitution. The Constitutional Review Committee only handed down its report on the Bill on 23 November and as a result, some MPs argued that they would vote against because “most parliamentarians were given very little time to study the contents and intentions of the proposed integrity bill” (Solomon Times, 25/11/09). It remains to be seen whether enough MPs will change their mind when Parliament sits again in March …

2010 elections – a House with more seats?

February 3, 2010

Currently, there are 50 seats in the Solomons parliament. There were only 38 seats when it was established in 1978 and it has only increased twice since (to 47 seats before the 1993 election and then to 50 seats before the 1997 election).

Section 54 of the Constitution (cited in full at the end of this post) states that there shall be 30-50 seats in Parliament and that the exactly number shall be based on the recommendation of the Constituency Boundaries Commission. Since Parliament has already reached the maximum number of seats, a constitutional amendment is now required if it is to expand further.

The Government proposed just such an amendment last year and the Constituency Boundaries Commisssion (CBC) has just handed down a report recommending that an additional 17 seats be established (see Solomon Times, 2/2/10). The provincial break-down is: four more for Malaita, three more for Guadalcanal and Western and one more for each of the other Provinces and also for Honiara.

This seems like a large increase but really this is just because Parliament has only expanded twice in 22 years and the last time was 13 years ago. Based on some quick-and-dirty calculations, I reckon that the recommended increase is probably less than the population growth that occurred during the same period. (I also reckon that this is appropriate, however, since there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the number of voters per electorate should remain fixed over time. Also, I can’t see any requirement to that effect in the Constitution.)

The CBC’s recommendation raises several issues.

First, the proposed constitutional amendment aims increase to increase the range of seats in Parliament from 30-50 (as it currently stands) to 50-70 seats (in future). However, if the CBC recommendation is adopted, then it is highly likely that Parliament will have to amend the constitution again the next time there is a recommendation to increase the number of seats. Given that population growth is likely to remain strong for some time to come, perhaps it would be wise to increase the upper cap to 80 or even 90 seats (or, more radically, why not do away with it entirely and leave it in the hands of the CBC, subject to parliamentary approval?).

Second, if the necessary changes are approved by Parliament in March, the task of implementation is likely to place additional pressure on the SI electoral commission, given there will be at most 4-5 months between parliamentary approval of the additional seats and the date of any election.

Huge bonus for sitting MPs

Finally, the CBC’s recommendation is likely to be a huge bonus for sitting MPs, especially since section 54 only allows them to accept or reject the recommendation (that is, Parliament does not have the power to approve a smaller increase). When Parliament expanded from 38 to 47 members before the 1993 election, 31 out of 38 incumbent members (82%) were re-elected. By contrast, in the six other elections since independence, on average only 44% of incumbents were re-elected and no other election has returned more than 58% of incumbents.

Sam Alasia suggests that the success of incumbents in 1993 may have been due in part to the introduction in 1992 of a discretionary fund for MPs to distribute to their electorates (Alasia 1997, p.12) – the now-infamous Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF). Clearly, however, the increase in the number of seats also played a role because the competition in that election was less fierce – in 1993, there were only 6.0 candidates per electorate, the lowest level of any post-indendepence election. By contrast, in five other elections, the average was 6.7 candidates per electorate. (This excludes the exceptional case of the 2006 election, which averaged 9.1 candidates per electorate.)

Perhaps it is these considerations, rather than the pressure imposed on the Electoral Commission, will weigh uppermost on the minds of parliamentarians when they deliberate on this matter in March?

Appendix:

As mentioned above, the number of seats in Parliament is governed by Section 54 of the Constitution. Here are the relevant provisions:

Constituencies

54.-(1) For the purpose of the election of members of Parliament, Solomon Islands shall be divided into such number of constituencies, being not less than thirty and not more than fifty, and each constituency shall have such boundaries, as may be prescribed by Parliament by resolution on a recommendation of the Constituency Boundaries Commission in accordance with subsection (4) of this section.

(2) The Constituency Boundaries Commission shall make recommendations to Parliament with respect to the number and boundaries of constituencies as soon as practicable after the commencement of this Constitution; and thereafter the Commission may review the number and boundaries of the constituencies whenever they consider this to be desirable and shall do so not later than ten years after they last reviewed them, and may make recommendations to Parliament for alterations in the number and boundaries of the constituencies.

(3) In making recommendations under the preceding subsection, the Constituency Boundaries Commission shall have regard to the principle that the number of inhabitants of each constituency shall be as nearly equal as is reasonably practicable:

Provided that the Commission may depart from the foregoing principle to such extent as they consider expedient in order to take account of the distribution of the population, the means of communication, and ethnic affiliations.

(4) Parliament may, by resolution, approve or reject the recommendations of the Constituency Boundaries Commission but may not vary them; and, if so approved, the recommendations shall have effect as from the next dissolution of Parliament.

PNG road trip – Madang and surrounds

February 1, 2010

This is the fourth blog describing various stages in a Madang-Hagen road trip that Tom, Sarah and I went on in January 2010. We only stayed a couple of nights in Madang and could easily have stayed longer. This entry describes the places we visited while we were there. Had we stayed longer, we probably would have taken the short boat ride out to Krangket island, checked out the Madang museum or driven north up to the Kau Forest Conservation area. They’ll have to wait for next time …

Coastwatchers Monument, Madang (Lori Witham)

Madang Lodge

We splashed out a little on Madang Lodge (K506/nt for a twin room) and we weren’t disappointed. It is deservedly rated by Lonely Planet as “our pick” – beautiful grounds, lovely rooms, helpful staff and very relaxing vibe. I highly recommend it.

Ohu Butterfly Habitat

Ohu Butterfly Habitat is a community conservation and research area that was established about 15 years ago. The owner, Hais Wassel, is a landowner of the area and got it started by negotiating with fellow landowners to preserve a section of land from gardens, plantations and the like and instead build it up into a habitat that is designed to attract a wide range of the area’s large birdwing butterflies. Hais knows his stuff and has hosted a number of researchers and PhD students over the years. As a result, he provided us with a very informative tour (our conversation strayed well beyond butterflies to the land arrangements in the area, logging issues in and around Madang and the economics of buai plantations).

Apparently you can get most of the way by PMV (albeit with a 5km walk thereafter) but I reckon that a hire car is the way to go. The route is only about 17km from Madang but most of this is on an unsealed road so it is probably a 45-60 minute drive each way. It is probably simplest to arrange a guide to take you there but otherwise, here are some directions:

About 5km out of Madang heading south along the Ramu highway, there is a right-hand turn (dirt road) with a sign-post to Omoru. Follow this road for another 7km (I think) before taking a right-hand turn that heads up the hill and continues for another 5km. You will know when you are in the right vicinity when you see the sign for Ohu primary school. The Butterfly Habitat is just a short distance further on.

The entrance fee is K10 per person.

Balek wildlife sanctuary

Balek is a small road-side village that sits opposite the imposing Balek range – a small but sheer and imposing ridgeline that is completely covered in forest. The villagers have turned the Balek range, its forests and a sulphur-infused creek into a small but attractive wildlife sanctuary that achieved some fame by appearing the the 1996 film Robinson Crusoe, starring Pierce Brosnan (I haven’t seen the film so that didn’t mean much to me).

Thanks to the sulphur, the creek is appropriately known as smelwara (ie, smelly river) and it attracts eels and turtles. The creek is actually the combination of a fresh water stream and from a water source flowing out of a small cave wedged in the base of the range. Apparently there is a second, narrower cave inside the first  – we didn’t see that whilst we were there but you can read the kastom story associated with it in this article reproduced from Air Niugini’s in-flight magazine.

The entrance fee is K5 per person.