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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 20,1997 - PACNEWS)---Prime Minister Bill Skate has announced that the Papua New Guinea government will establish an independent Human Rights Commission to assist its most disadvangated and vulnerable citizens.

Skate has instructed government staff members to draft legislation for submission to the National Executive Council, which he will ask to give priority approval. These moves will be followed by publication of the draft legislation in the official gazzette and then formal introduction in Parliament for legislators' consideration during next month's regular session.

The Prime minister said the Commission will be unique, taking into account PNG’s diverse customs and traditions. He said its powers and functions will reflect the views of a wide range of people who already have been consulted.

Skate's announcement followed a meeting in Port Moresby with the special advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Brian Burdekin. It is believed Burdekin highlighted an initial commitment made by former PNG Justice Minister Philemon Embel at a 1993 UN World Conference on Human rights in Vienna that PNG would set up a Human Rights Commission.

Several other cabinet ministers have publicly reaffirmed that promise during the past four years.

Burdekin, who now has left Papua New Guinea, congratulated Prime Minister Skate for honoring the 1993 promise. He said it is an extremely important development, for the people of PNG will now have their own mechanism to address and redress any human rights violations. Burdekin said every country needs an institution of this kind to assure human rights protecttion, but, so far, only a small number of countries have decided to establish such a commission. He said despite having a superb constitution, most of the people of PNG do not know the important rights and freedoms it assures.


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