CONFUSION IN PNG PARLIAMENT OVER PARTY VOTES

By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 27) – The drama that unfolded in Parliament yesterday during the vote on amending the Constitution could land several ministers and members of parliament before the Ombudsman Commission on charges of misconduct in office.

Some lawmakers belonging to the Peoples Progress Party (PPP), United Resources Party (URP) and People's Labor Party (PLP) voted for the amendment, though their parties had resolved to vote against the amendments. 

Deputy Speaker Jeffery Nape ruled that PPP members Paul Tiensten (Trade and Industry Minister), MMark Maipakai (Justice), Thomas Petrus (MP for Koroba Kopiago Open) and Timothy Tala (Imbonggu Open) voted outside the party resolution when they voted in support of the government and their votes could not be counted.

The same ruling was made against URP's Samson Akoitai (Mining Minister), William Duma (Environment and Conservation Minister) and Governors Mal Kela Smith (EHP) and Clement Nakmai (West New Britain) who voted with the government while their party leader Tim Neville (Milne Bay Regional) and members Benny Allan (Unggai-Bena), John Vulupindi (Talasea), Kuri Kingal (Baiyer-Mul) and Isaac Taitibe (Alotau) voted in accordance with their party resolution. 

In Peter Yama's PLP, members Yuntuvi Bao (Housing Minister) and Balus Libe (Komo-Magarima) voted with government against their party resolution to vote against the amendment. 

Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta said under the relevant sections of the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates, ministers and MPs who voted against their party resolutions are deemed to have resigned from their respective parties and the Registrar of Political Parties must refer them to Ombudsman who will then investigate if the members are guilty of misconduct in offence. The maximum penalty on this is dismissal from Parliament.

November 27, 2003

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