PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 1) – Transparency International (TI PNG) has expressed concern over matters surrounding the re-election of Rai Coast Member of Parliament James Yali and is calling for tougher laws to be introduced.

TI PNG chairman Mike Manning said while the MP has the democratic right to stand for what he believes and was allowed to do so whilst appealing against his jail sentence, his leadership is extremely compromised.

The public knows that Mr James Yali was convicted of rape in 2005 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

"We are concerned that the country’s laws are much too lenient in cases like this and that there are loopholes in many of them. If Mr Yali is presumed innocent, he should be released from jail and if he is not, it makes a mockery of PNG law to have him standing for parliament from prison," Mr Manning said.

"While we understand that the MP-elect has won the election and was supported by his Rai Coast people to win back his seat, he should not be allowed to stand for election whilst he is in prison.

"It is difficult to imagine why people could vote for someone who is in jail for such a serious offence if they thought carefully about it."

He said given what had been reported in the media surrounding the Rai Coast MP-elect, and should he be successfully returned to Parliament after his legal battles, the laws would be seen to be a laughing stock, if they were not already.

He said PNG must now revisit its laws under section 103 of its constitution to ensure that leaders elected to parliament are experienced and have adequate educational qualifications.

He added that PNG should think carefully about inserting a "fit and proper persons test" for MPs.

Mr Manning stressed that they should be qualified by age and other criteria as well as being ineligible to stand from inside prison.

"There must be credibility in our leadership for a better PNG."

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