GUN-TOTING PNG PARLIAMENT ADJOURNED

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 4) – The Papua New Guinea government yesterday adjourned Parliament unopposed for three months to November 2, citing concern over the security of members of parliament.

Both the Opposition and the Government have separately accused each other of bringing guns into Parliament.

Parliament security guards confirmed seeing high-powered guns but would not be drawn into identifying who actually had them.

Yesterday’s adjournment to November means that the unresolved politicking between the Opposition and Government will impact on the Budget session, traditionally held in November.

Prime Minister Michael Somare said yesterday that if common sense had prevailed and MPs concentrated on ensuring that their constituents’ interests were served during this Budget preparation, there would be no problems.

The adjournment was part of an intense day of politics as National Planning and Rural Development Minister Moses Maladina (Esa’ala MP) — sacked as deputy prime minister and minister for agriculture — lost his place in Cabinet for the second time this year. Whether the loss was through resignation or ousting by his People’s Action Party, is still unclear.

Sir Michael and Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu had to postpone their morning departure to Apia for the August 5-7 Pacific Island Forum.

"We had to stay behind and sort out the House," Sir Michael said. "And I think evident from what you saw as we went in at 11 o’clock, we were expecting the Opposition to move a motion without notice to perhaps suspend the standing orders or perhaps to get rid of the Speaker. But their tactics and strategies did not work. So, what has happened now is that we have adjourned Parliament."

But Opposition Leader Peter O’Neill said they were regrouping in B1 Conference Room of Parliament to go in for Question Time when they heard of the adjournment.

Leader of Government Business Patrick Pruaitch spearheaded the adjournment move which he initially stumbled through in hiss haste to effect the adjournment with Speaker Jeffery Nape.

"Mr Speaker, because there is an overwhelming security threat to MPs, I wish to adjourn Parliament to 2 o’ clock, November 2, 2004," Mr Pruaitch said, prompting Mr Nape to hastily move for the vote on voices against standing orders.

But both MPs were advised to re-word the motion to two parts in line with Standing Orders beginning with an advance motion giving notice on the date and time of the adjournment and then the actual adjournment motion.

A previous adjournment for five-months dubbed "five-month holiday" for MPs resulted in a Supreme Court action by the Ombudsman Commission. Another two-week adjournment in July, resulted in Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno declaring that Parliament had breached the 63-day sitting required under the Constitution — confirmed by the Supreme Court twice.

Despite this, Sir Michael said Parliament had fulfilled the 63-day requirement on Monday (August 2).

"You saw Government with its numbers. We were there with full force and of course we adjourned Parliament until second of November," the Prime Minister said. "We’ve given enough time — ample time to all the members to participate in parliamentary process and parliamentary debate. But half of our MPs decided they would want to boycott and I think for the last two weeks they have been boycotting Parliament."

The Ombudsman Commission is expected to comment on the three-month recess later.

August 5, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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