Jimmy Lusibaea

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The Right Honourable
Jimmy Lusibaea
MP
Minister of Fisheries & Marine Resources
In office
27 August 2010 – 30 November 2010
Prime Minister Danny Philip
Preceded by Nollen Cornelius Leni
Succeeded by Bodo Dettke
Member of Parliament
for North Malaita
In office
20 January 2011 – 17 October 2011
Preceded by himself, prior to vacancy
Member of Parliament
for North Malaita
In office
4 August 2010 – 30 November 2010
Preceded by Daniel Enele Kwanairara
Succeeded by himself, following vacancy
Personal details
Born 7 July 1970
Malu'u, Malaita Province
Political party Independent[1]

Jimmy Lusibaea (born 7 July 1970), also known as Jimmy "Rasta",[2] is a Solomon Islands politician.

He was born in Malu'u, Malaita Province.[3]

He became involved in the severe ethnic conflicts on Guadalcanal and Malaita in the early 2000s. He has been described as a "warlord", and was one of the leaders of the Malaita Eagle Force, an armed ethnic militia formed to fight for the interests of Malaitan migrants facing expulsion from Guadalcanal.[4] He surrendered in 2003 when an international peacekeeping force, RAMSI, arrived in the Solomons. He was arrested, accused of several crimes, including having taken part in the attempted murder of bank manager Moses Garu; charges on that count were dropped when "witnesses failed to testify".[4] He was convicted for a robbery committed in 2000, and given a five-year sentence.[5] In 2006, he was "acquitted of the death of two special constables allegedly killed in his yard" in 2002.[6]

Sent to prison after RAMSI's arrival, he "found religion on the inside and, on his release, set up a successful business".[4] Having studied heavy plant mechanics at the Afutara Vocational School, he eventually became Managing Director of the Lion Heart Company, before going into politics in 2010.[3]

He began his political career by standing in the North Malaita constituency in the August 2010 general election. He was elected, and appointed Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Prime Minister Danny Philip's government.[3] In September, as Fisheries Minister, he warned that the government would crack down on foreign vessels illegally fishing in Solomon Islands waters.[7]

In September 2010, he was charged with "attempted murder with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, assault on a police officer and discharging a firearm in a public place", for crimes allegedly committed in 2001.[8] Specifically, he was accused of inflicting head injuries on police officer Sam Manekeha, and of shooting civilian Robert Solo in both knees, while a commander in the Malaita Eagle Force.[9] In November, he pleaded guilty in court to the charges of assault causing grievous bodily harm and assaulting a police officer, and was remanded in custody to await his sentence.[2]

While Lusibaea was awaiting his sentence, he received unexpected praise from the Leader of the Opposition, Steve Abana. Abana declared himself impressed with Lusibaea's work as Fisheries Minister, noting his achievement in negotiating with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, earlier in November, to successfully double the access fee for foreign vessels wishing to fish in Solomon Islands waters. Abana stated:

"Mr Lusibaea's outstanding performance and his continued assistance to community groups touched many hearts and this speaks loud and clear of the totally changed person he is now to what he was during the ethnic tension. Solomon Islands needs enthusiastic leaders like Mr Lusibaea who are keen to learn and to carry out their official obligations to the best of their ability."[10]

On 30 November, he was sentenced to two years and nine months in gaol for assault and grievous bodily harm. As his sentence exceeded six months in gaol, he lost his seat in Parliament, and thus his position in government.[11] He was released from gaol on parole on 14 January, reportedly for good behaviour and for having undergone rehabilitation. His early release caused an "uproar" among the Opposition, with acting Leader of the Opposition Matthew Wale requesting further explanation, and suggesting that the government might have pressured the parole board into granting Lusibaea's release.[9][12]

On 20 January, the Minister for Police, James Tora, reduced Lusibaea's sentence to one month, using his discretion as Minister under section 38 of the Correctional Service Act. Consequently, as it appeared Lusibaea was no longer barred from occupying his seat, he resumed his functions in Parliament.[13] The Opposition announced it would "challenge the matter in court".[14] Rodney Kingmele, President of the Solomon Islands Bar Association, also criticised the decision.[15] Lusibaea's ability to sit in Parliament as a member of the government majority was viewed as crucial at a time when the government was struggling to maintain a viable majority, in the face of defections.[16] It was initially unclear whether Lusibaea was set to resume his post in Cabinet, but a listing of ministers in April 2011 still had the position of Fisheries Minister "vacant".[17]

On 17 October, the High Court ruled, in the case brought by the Opposition, that the Minister for Police and the Parole Board had lacked the authority to reduce the sentence, although they did have the authority to remit it. They could reduce the execution of the sentence, but that did not alter the fact that the sentence had indeed been passed. A sentence could only be overturned by a court of appeal, or by the monarch's use of her prerogative of mercy. Thus it remained the case that, having been sentenced to two years and nine months in gaol, Lusibaea was barred from sitting in Parliament. The ruling came just as the Prime Minister had announced he intended for Lusibaea to resume his functions as Fisheries Minister - a decision rendered impossible by his renewed exclusion from Parliament.[18][19]

Days after being excluded from Parliament once more, Lusibaea donated SI$74,700 to meet the tuition fees of all twenty-six students from his erstwhile constituency who were currently studying at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education. He explained that he wished to assist and "serve the future leaders of North Malaita".[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 2010 election data, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation
  2. ^ a b "Solomons Govt Minister pleads guilty to ethnic tensions-related charges". Radio New Zealand International. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Official biography on the website of the Solomon Islands Parliament
  4. ^ a b c "The getting of wisdom", Sydney Morning Herald, 2 October 2010
  5. ^ "CONVICTED SOLOMONS MP WARNS AGAI NST ILLEGAL FISHING", Pacific Islands Report, 20 September 2010
  6. ^ "MALAITA REBEL LEADER ACQUITTED OF 2002 -MURDER", Pacific Islands Report, 3 September 2006
  7. ^ "CONVICTED SOLOMONS MP WARNS AGAINST ILLEGAL FISHING", Pacific Islands Report, 20 September 2010
  8. ^ "SOLOMONS MP FACES ATTEMPTED MURDER CHARGE", Pacific Islands Report, 14 September 2010
  9. ^ a b "Lusibaea Released, Opposition Uproar", Solomon Times, 17 January 2011
  10. ^ "Gov’t uses fisheries as bait: Opposition", Solomon Star, 22 November 2010
  11. ^ "Solomon Islands faces crisis as minister jailed", The Australian, 1 December 2010
  12. ^ "Opposition in Solomons wants release of MP Jimmy Lusibaea revoked". Radio New Zealand International. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "Can Lusibaea perform his functions as a member of parliament?", Solomon Star, 26 January 2011
  14. ^ "Opposition plans to challenge Lusibaea’s remission", Solomon Star, 27 January 2011
  15. ^ "An attack on independence of judiciary", Solomon Star, 1 February 2011
  16. ^ "Government numbers decreasing", Solomon Star, 25 January 2011
  17. ^ Cabinet of Solomon Islands, CIA, 19 April 2011
  18. ^ "High Court Rules against Lusibaea", Solomon Times, 18 October 2011
  19. ^ "Solomon Islands Governor General accepts ruling on Lusibaea", Radio New Zealand International, 18 October 2011
  20. ^ "Lusibaea still pours help", Solomon Star, 27 October 2011