PNG PARLIAMENT FAILS TO PASS EXTENSION OF BOUGAINVILLE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT BILL

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PNG PARLIAMENT CONSIDERS EXTENSION OF BOUGAINVILLE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT BILL

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 10, 1997-Niuswire/Post- Courier)---Papua New Guinea's Opposition stormed out of Parliament Tuesday in protest over the Government's initial refusal to adjourn Parliament to allow their amendments to be addressed by the Bougainville Transitional Assembly, the Post-Courier reported today.

Ironically, Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation Philemon Embel, just minutes later, successfully moved the same motion, adjourning Parliament to until Thursday at 10:00 a.m.and permitting the Assembly to review the proposals.

Prime Minister Bill Skate, in a statement on the third reading of bills to extend the Bougainville Transitional Government’s term, had highlighted that the bills had "grown in importance" since they were first moved two months ago.

He highlighted the Burnham Truce, the recent Cairns talks resulting in the Cairns Commitment, the agreement establishing the neutral Truce Monitoring Group, and the Peace Consultative Meeting as indications of ways the bills had grown in significance.

"In the circumstances, it would be, not only wrong for this Parliament to remove the basis on which the Bougainville Transitional Government has been set up and operates, but possibly counter-productive in the effects it would have on the peace process overall," said Mr. Skate.

"To do away with the BTG without reason or adequate consultation would, in fact, amount to a betrayal of those who have supported the BTG, including its members, staff, and members of the general public."

Mr. Skate said that BTG was a "bridging arrangement" established under the National Constitution, the Organic Law on Provincial and Local-level Governments, and the Bougainville provincial constitution to "provide a link between existing law and institutions and arrangements that are still to be negotiated.

"As a key participant in the peace process, it is entitled not to find its very existence threatened before long-term arrangements for the government of Bougainville have been discussed, let alone agreed," he said.

The Opposition's amendments seek: to include all four MPs as full transitional assembly members with all powers, including to vote and contest positions; and to use their (to be) extended life from December 31, 1997 to prepare for provincial elections. However, Mr. Skate’s "considerable regret" these were not included failed to placate the Opposition.

Rabaul MP Sir John Kaputin managed to speak animatedly against the bills before the motion to close debate was voted on, with Government MPs out-voting the Opposition 73 to 18.

Government then used their superior numbers to pass the bill, voting 75 votes to the Opposition's 19.

Speaker John Pundari then told Parliament that the third reading and vote required an absolute majority of 82.

Mr. Skate, aware that he did not have the numbers, tried to allow for debate to buy time.

Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi strategically moved for debate on the third reading to be closed, an attempt aimed at forcing the Government to vote on the third reading and final vote.

The Government used its numbers again to keep debate open by voting against the motion 73 to the Opposition's 20.

Mr. Narokobi's second motion for the bills to be put to the vote was ruled "an abuse of standing orders because the same question had been put." Constitutional Development Commission Chairman and Tambul-Nebilyer MP Vincent Auali then called for an explanation from Mr. Skate on why BTG had not implemented the amendments proposed by the Opposition.

Mr. Skate said that BTG would do so today and urged the Opposition Leader to "show maturity."

That resulted in Mr. Narokobi yelling out: ``You show maturity! You show maturity!''

After Speaker Pundari called the House to Order, Mr. Skate said that the Government had done its part and that he would have Provincial and Local-level Government Minister Simon Kaumi and Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai look into it.

Mr. Narokobi asked that Parliament adjourn to Thursday, to allow the BTG to address the amendments.

When this was rejected, Mr. Narokobi tried to move another motion but was waved down by his Opposition colleagues. Prominent among them was Sir Michael Somare. They then grabbed their papers and walked out of Parliament in obvious protest.

Title -- 1068 BOUGAINVILLE: Opposition storms out of Parliament Date -- 10 December 1997 Byline -- Peter Niesi Origin -- Niuswire Source -- Post-Courier (PNG), 10/12/97 Copyright -- Post-Courier Status -- Unabridged

This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source for reprinting. This service is provided by Journalism Studies, University of Papua New Guinea. Please acknowledge NIUSWIRE. Queries: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/nius/

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