PUBLIC BARRED FROM PNG WOMEN’S BILL DEBATE, VOTE

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Women kept out due to past disruptive cheering, applause

By Jeffrey Elapa PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 18, 2012) – Women wanting to witness Parliament’s vote on their 22 reserved seats were refused entry by security officers at Waigani yesterday.

Members of the public were also denied entry. Only Parliament staff and members of the media were allowed in.

According to security sources, the order came from authorities because in the past, women started clapping and cheering in the chamber when MPs were asked to vote on conscience.

On several occasions, acting Speaker Francis Marus had to warn the public that parliament was "not a circus" where people could come in and cheer, disrupting the session.

It is believed that the same group of women leaders had been continuously bringing in mothers to make up the numbers and push for the bill. Professional women who have the leadership qualities are not part of the push for the reserved seats.

Parliament did not vote for the 22 reserve seats and suspended all businesses to allow the Prime Minister to present the national anti-corruption strategy 2010-20 when Parliament started yesterday – an hour later than scheduled.

Four members of the opposition turned up for Parliament yesterday, led by Dame Carol Kidu, John Pundari, Philip Kikala and Philemon Embel.

At around 2pm, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, his son and suspended member for Angoram Arthur Somare, member for Wabag Sam Abal, outspoken Timothy Bonga and Ambunti-Drekikir MP Tony Aimo were seen walking to the Speaker’s office.

The purpose of the meeting with the speaker was not immediately known. But sources said they wanted to ask the Speaker to rescind his decision and allow Sir Michael to take the Prime Minister’s seat.

It is not known if the group did manage to meet with the Speaker although several attempts had been made to contact the Speaker’s office.

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