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Outcry against curbing ombudsman’ oversight

By Peter Sea PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 18, 2010) – THE Government of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has snubbed the public outcry against the Maladina Amendments.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Queensland University journalism professor Keith Jackson, the "Maladina Amendment" would remove the Ombudsman’s power to issue directives preventing payments from public funds to officeholders it believes are using those funds improperly.]

Petitions containing the outcry from civil society organisations and students were "returned" yesterday without being taken note of by the National Parliament.

Yesterday morning Bulolo MP and Opposition stalwart Sam Basil formally handed back the petitions to the co-chair of the Community Coalition Against Corruption Joe Kanekane.

The petitions were received from the civil society groups on May 4 by Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta, Mr Basil, Member for Tewae-Siassi Vincent Michael, Lae MP Bart Philemon and Kairuku-Hiri MP Paru Aihi.

Mr Basil said the five leaders made themselves available to receive the petitions because nobody in the Government was willing to do so.

"The people had spoken and had rejected the Maladina amendments outright," Mr Basil said.

Mr Kanekane said they would get their legal advisers to have a look all available options before deciding on a course of action.

Two options they may look at are a nationwide demonstration in July and getting provincial governments to join a Supreme Court reference on the amendment.

"We have to redirect our efforts to the provincial executive councils to join the reference," former judge Nemo Yalo said.

The Government used its numerical strength to stop the petitions from being taken note of in Parliament. Parliamentary procedures allow for petitions to be placed on Notice Paper after prayers every sitting day before Question Time. But since May 4 they have gathered dust in the Opposition Leader’s Parliament office because the Speaker, on advice from the Government, had refused to entertain them.

Leaders of groups present at a press conference including chairman of civil society groups Noel Anjo said there would not be a nationwide demonstration next Tuesday when Parliament resumed.

Mr Yalo said the public had sent a clear message to the Government that they were against the Maladina amendments by signing the petitions. "It was a strong message that the public is not happy with the amendments," he said adding the approach taken to have the petitions debated in Parliament and to get the Government to withdraw the Bill had been successfully blocked.

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