PNG GOVERNOR-GENERAL MUST BE IMPECCABLE

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Dec. 13, 2010) – Many historians believe that Papua New Guinea (PNG) owes its independence to the Labor Government of Gough Whitlam of Australia. Edward Gough Whitlam’s government had been elected on December 2, 1972 and it was the first Labor Government in Australia after 23 years under the Liberal Party. The new government was elected in a climate of great hope and optimism and its demise a mere three years later at the hands of the Senate and the Governor-General is a fascinating political story. Sir John Kerr, the man appointed by Whitlam to the position of Governor-General in 1974 turned around and sacked Whitlam and his government because the Senate rejected its 1976 Appropriation Bill.

The dismissal of the Whitlam government should, and we hope it does, demonstrate the powerful position the Governor General, as the representative of Queen Elizabeth II and Head of State, holds in a Commonwealth country.

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II was born on the 21st April 1926. She is the Head of State for Papua New Guinea, as well as Head of State for other independent sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In addition, she is also Head of the Commonwealth, she is the figurehead of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations and, as the British monarch, and she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Such is the position Her Majesty holds in the world today that she cannot engage in any activity that brings her or the monarch’s integrity into question. For example, the Queen does not break any laws.

Because England is far away from PNG, it is necessary for the Queen to appoint a representative to be in country to carry out the duties, she has to perform. Our Governor-General is the Queen’s representative here and is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. Yes, he is appointed by the Queen and he has the responsibility to ensure that PNG is governed according to the rules set out in the Constitution. The Constitution describes some specific tasks for the Governor-General and a major task is to give the Royal Assent to bills that Parliament has recently passed. Royal Assent is when the Governor-General signs a new bill, and it becomes a law. Other tasks performed by the Governor General are when he uses constitutional power to open a new Parliament after an election and when he swears into office appointments to ministerial posts and departmental heads. So in Papua New Guinea, the Governor General opens the new Parliament, swears in the Speaker, asked the party with the biggest number to form the new government, swears in the new Prime Minister and the ministers. The Governor does all that because ultimately, the Parliament, the government, the people and definitely the country belongs to the Queen, as she is the Head of State.

So it must be agreed that the Office of the Governor General is not a ceremonial office. It is the Office where all bills must be scrutinized to ensure that they are not harmful to the people, that they protects their rights and freedoms, and then signed into laws. This is the Office that makes sure that all persons appointed to positions like the Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister, Ministers and Departmental Heads are people of good character and standing, and then sworn into office. And most importantly, it is the Office that upholds the Constitution and all other laws in this country.

The Supreme Court has ruled the election of the current Governor General null and void. A new election is expected in 40 days. It is time; Parliament gives the Office of the Governor General the due respect it deserves, and put someone there that does not bring the integrity of that Office and the Queen into question.

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