The Electoral Commission is introducing Biometric Voter Registration with the aim of eradicating ghost voting and double voting, and it plans to complete the process by the end of March.
But the Anti-Corruption Network's chief executive, Barnabas Henson, says the schedule is too tight, and the government may run out of money.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Barnbas Henson, chief executive, Solomon Islands Anti-Corruption Network
HENSON: Solomon Islands, you know, traditionally, we have a more casual approach to timeline, time frame, deadlines and stuff like that and the time frame that the government has set up to March next year wouldn't be realistic as far as we are concerned for a couple of reasons, one is financial. The government needs to make a very commitment and stick by what they say and stick by the budget in providing adequate financial support to the program. We understand that they are now into training of registration offices and data input offices, that's according to what we have learnt progression quite well and the government has been very supportive of that. They have I think set up the system, the hub, I think that's completed with all the IT equipment, but we're approaching Christmas and people are going to take holiday and go off to their villages, to their provnces, so that might slow things a bit.
We have actually spoken to the Electoral Commission to ask them what they think would be a realistic time line to have the whole system complete and ready to roll and they have indicated if they were given at least around August, September of 2014, that would be a more realistic time frame to have the whole system set up and have people trained and ready to roll it out.
EWART: Does that mean, therefore, that the Electoral Commission is at odds with the government, is the suggestion that the government is trying to rush this through?
HENSON: You could say that, you could say that. While the government is trying to rush it through, they have to apply commonsense and they have to look at things more realistically and look at the actual progress of how the training and the preparation work is rolling out at the moment. They could try and rush it through. But if that is the case, then certainly the system won't be ready in time for elections.
EWART: You talked about the fraud aspect of this and the hope that this system would go a long way to stamping out electoral fraud. But my understanding is that you don't believe the system is necessarily fool proof, that there are still improvements that could be made?
HENSON: It requires time to study and maybe look at how best to secure the system and do away with election fraud 100 per cent. We are quite positive that it will take away at least 95 per cent of double voting and double registration, that has been one of the main problems we've had over the years.
EWART: Does the fact that the government is going about this registration process at all indicate that Solomon Islands is maturing, if you like, as a democracy, and moving to the point where when the Regional Assistance Mission comes to an end, they will be able to cope?
HENSON: Yes, yes. There is very, very positive step taken by the government to ensure that the voting system and the registration system is on par with the rest of the world if you, seeing that we're maturing,. We've gone past 35 years of independence. It's a very good thing for the country, in terms of democracy, when politics gets involved into issues like, it will bring up a lot of disadvantages to the nation. But generally, the nation fully supports what the government is doing to ensure that democracy is upheld and to ensure that people do vote rightly and correctly according to their conscience and their choices.
EWART: And if you're reservations about the voter registration process, perhaps particularly, the speed of the registration process can be overcome. Are you as confident as you reasonably could be that the next election will be as free and fair as any election that's ever taken place in Solomon Islands?
HENSON: Yes, certainly, certainly. According to the program, there's going to be a series of test runs of the system to see how well it works and there's also going to be a roll out of awareness for people to make them aware of the system, in a sense, just to try and get them accustomed to this new kind of voting system. But it will work positively and we very positive and we are quite supportive of the fact that it will actually get rid of one of the major problems that we've had over the years double registration, double voting.